Groceries can be pretty expensive, especially if you’re a lower-to-middle-class family struggling to keep up with the growing inflation rates, however, things don’t have to be this way.
In fact, the federal government offers a variety of assistance programs to help those in need, some of which are focused specifically on providing help for those that have trouble paying for their food expenses.
With programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, all qualifying Americans can gain access to healthy, nutritious food, so long as they stick to buying those products at participating stores.
Also known as food stamps, this program has helped millions across the country, and it’s slowly growing in popularity as more and more individuals/families begin to struggle with covering their food expenses.
What is SNAP?
If you look at the data from the past couple of years, you’ll find that SNAP has helped over 41 million low-income Americans pay for their monthly food expenses, drastically lowering the amount of hunger the US is dealing with.
Essentially, the program exists to provide help for working Americans struggling to deal with the growing costs of their daily necessities as well as the elderly and those with disabilities who are living on a fixed income.
Apart from the unemployment insurance program that’s intended to help those in need, SNAP is easily one of the most responsive assistance programs in the country, offering help regardless of the condition of the economy is in.
The funds that the beneficiaries receive are transferred to their EBT cards, which are like credit cards of sorts, except they can only be used at participating stores to buy eligible products, leaving very little room for abuse of this federally subsidized money.
Compared to the rest of the federal assistance programs you may run into, SNAP’s requirements are fairly loose, and just about any low-income individual/family may be able to qualify for benefits.
These rules are set at the federal level and won’t vary too much from state to state, although certain details are tweaked to be in line with the state’s laws and policies, as well as the poverty line in said state.
In general, qualifying for SNAP benefits requires you to meet three very specific criteria defined by the program’s management, those being tied to your monthly income and the assets you currently own.
Last year’s limitations prevented anyone with more than $2.5k in assets from qualifying, so long as their household didn’t have any members above the age of 60, whereas those with an elderly or disabled family member were allowed to have up to $3.75k.
On top of this, individuals on strike and those with drug felony convictions aren’t eligible for SNAP benefits, even if their assets/income are far below the federal requirement thresholds.
Applying for SNAP
Even though it’s a federally managed program, the application process is handled by state governments, with every state having its own online application form, although you can also apply in person at the local SNAP office.
Most of the time, applying also means passing an eligibility interview, which can be done over the phone or in the office, which serves to determine whether your statements and documentation regarding your income levels and assets add up.
Apart from these documents, you’ll also be required to provide any valid form of ID, your residency papers, household composition documents, and proof of any deductible expenses you may have.
Once this process is complete and the commission deems you eligible for the program, your household will be given an EBT card, where the program will deposit a pre-determined amount of funds to be used towards your food costs at participating stores that accept EBT payments.
At the moment, there are over 250k retailers participating in the program, and the majority of them are supermarkets or larger stores, meaning that you won’t have a hard time finding the products you’re looking for.
It’s important to note that the money you receive through SNAP cannot be used to purchase alcoholic beverages, cigarettes, vitamins, or any other home supplies, so be ready for some incredibly complex shopping lists if you do manage to qualify for benefits.
How much can you receive?
On average, a SNAP participant receives $127 every month, although this amount can vary depending on the individual’s income level, household composition, and assets owned.
This formula allows for households with the lowest amount of income to receive more money than the households that are closer to the poverty line, leaving everyone with enough funds to cover a portion of their monthly food expenses.
If you look at the way we viewed food 50 years ago, our diet has changed drastically, and with it, our spending has also increased, as we’re now much more inclined to spend more money on diverse food groups to remain healthy, which is exactly why SNAP was created in the first place.