What is SNAP and How to Apply

SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), formerly called food stamps, is a government program that helps people buy the food they need for healthy lives. Across the United States, there are 9.5 million families and children using SNAP to buy food. It is the largest program working to fight hunger in America. SNAP helps many people stretch their budgets because the money they would use on food can go towards other needs like medical bills, utilities, and rent.

Need support applying for SNAP benefits?

How does SNAP work?

People using SNAP receive monthly funds through a benefits card, similar to a debit card, to buy groceries at local stores or farmers' markets. The amount you receive each month depends on your income and family size

Who is eligible for SNAP?

SNAP is for everyone – families, seniors, people living with disabilities, people who are unemployed or employed, and veterans or active military. SNAP is here to help you whenever you may need it.

If you meet the eligibility requirements, you can apply for SNAP. Every state has different requirements for eligibility. These requirements might include:

  • Household income must be at or below a certain level

  • Household resources or assets, such as savings and bank accounts, must be less than a certain amount
  • At least one U.S. citizen or person with an eligible immigration status must live in the household

Check with your local SNAP office or your local food bank for help understanding if you are eligible. There is no risk to see if you are eligible for SNAP.

How do you apply for SNAP?

You may be able to apply for SNAP online, by mail, or by phone during the pandemic. Because each state has a different application form and process, we recommend connecting with your local food bank for complete details.

Once you submit your SNAP application, it may take 30 days for your local SNAP office to process your application. You may need to complete an interview with your SNAP office during your application review.

Is there help to apply for SNAP?

Many food banks in the Feeding America network can help you apply for SNAP today. Simply submit your zipcode below and answer a few questions. A member of the local SNAP Application Assistance team can help you through the screening and application process or connect you with a local organization that can help.


Need support applying for SNAP benefits?


Local SNAP Application Assistance teams may also be able to help with WIC, assistance for electricity and heating, unemployment insurance, income tax returns, and Medicaid enrollment.


What can you buy with SNAP?

You can use SNAP to buy many things like:

  • Fruits and vegetables

  • Meat, fish, and poultry

  • Dairy products

  • Bread and cereals

  • Snacks and beverages

  • Seeds and plants to grow food for your family


SNAP benefits cannot be used to buy:

  • Alcohol or tobacco products

  • Non-food items like pet food, cleaning supplies, household supplies like toilet paper, or hygiene items like shampoo, menstrual products, baby formula or diapers

  • Vitamins and medicines

Where can you shop using SNAP?

You can purchase food at many local grocery stores, convenience stores, farmer's markets, and even some online delivery services like Walmart and Amazon.


Are there other ways to get free groceries and other forms of support?

Our network of 200 food banks has many ways to help you and your family put food on the table and help make stretching your budget easier. 


Has the pandemic changed SNAP?

You can continue to apply for and receive SNAP benefits during the coronavirus pandemic. In January 2021, monthly benefits were increased to help everyone make it through this difficult time.

If you have lost your job or had your hours cut because of the pandemic, you may now be eligible for SNAP.

If you go back to work after the crisis and are no longer eligible for SNAP, you do not need to pay back the assistance you received.