The Food Stamp Program, also called SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) or EBT, helps United States citizens earning a low income pay for food.

Applying for food stamps (also known as SNAP or EBT) is simple to do if you know where to go, but finding out where to go and understanding what to do isn’t always easy.  Here we have made it much faster and easier for you by telling you exactly how to apply for food stamps in your state.

fruits and vegetablesWe gathered the information and went through each state, found out the exact actions needed to do in order to apply, and created a step-by-step list for you to follow.  Our goal is to make figuring out the application process as easy and painless as possible!

Please note that since we are not run by or affiliated with a government agency, we can only provide you with information and not assist you with the application or approval process.

CherriesThe application process for food stamps (SNAP) varies from state to state. Select the state you live in from the list above to find step-by-step instructions.

Applying for food stamps can be a smart move for many reasons. Firstly, if your income is low and limited, you may be spending too much of your money feeding your family when it really needs to be going towards bills. Food stamps allow many households to free up their money while feeding them better than if they were feeding themselves. Just imagine for a moment being able to spend more than $150 per person on food each month, whether or not your income fluctuates. While the amount you receive each month from SNAP varies, it can definitely be a huge help.

Where do you go to get food stamps?

A food stamp application can be found online or may need to be picked up in person from a social services office, depending on the state and county you are applying in. Once you have gone through the process of being accepted which includes and interview and proof of your information, you will need to pick up your EBT card from your social services office and create a pin number.

Anytime is a great time to apply for food stamps. Food stamps are available year ’round and each month you are awarded the same amount of money to spend on food. When you apply for food stamps, you will receive enough food stamps to buy food for the rest of the month (unless you are initially awarded food stamps on the first, then you will receive a full months worth.) This is very handy because sometimes money runs out and many people are left hungry until their next paycheck.

What is considered a resource?

head of lettuceMany people worry that they will not qualify for food stamps because of they things that they own, when in fact their worries are often unfounded. For instance, your home whether it be a mobile, modular or a site built house is not counted as a resource when you apply for food stamps. Land is another resource that does not affect your eligibility for receiving food stamps.

At this point you are probably thinking that food stamps are within reach, and you could be right. However, there are still a few more things you need to look at before you have a chance to qualify. Your vehicle may or may not be counted as an asset. That depends on your specific states rules. You also must stay under an income limit, but not all money coming in to your household is necessarily counted as income. The income limit varies and changes depending on the year that you apply and on the number of people living in your house.

Why do they need my personal information?

Your personal information is needed to verify who you are, what your income level is, and for other verification purposes. You information is also needed to create your SNAP account so the food stamps benefits can be used by you. To answer any questions you may have about submitting your personal information or privacy information, don’t hesitate to contact your local service branch. The contact information is located on your state’s information page.

Applying for food stamps is very basic and does not require a lot of effort. Each state differs in its application process, but the general steps are to apply either online, or to fill out a paper form that is either mailed or faxed to you personally. Some states may require you to pick up a paper form. Once you have completed your application fully, you must return it to your local service office for them to go over your information. An appointment will be arranged for an interview and depending upon your state of residence, the interview may be over the phone or in person. If you are approved, you will receive your EBT card and will create a pin number for use in stores.

bell peppersThe application interview is designed for the social services worker to determine whether you are eligible for food stamps and to answer any questions you may have about the SNAP program. The interview is also a great time to discuss whether you need to appoint someone else to buy your food for you. You worker may also suggest other benefits that you may be eligible for. Once you are accepted into the SNAP program, you will receive an EBT card.

An EBT card is very similar to a debit card. It looks like a credit or debit card and requires a pin number for use. When you are buying food with an EBT card, simply slide the card through the card reader, just as you would a credit or debit card and then enter you r pin number. You cashier may ask whether you are using an EBT card and whether it is for cash or food. If you are enrolled in the food stamps program, you are using an EBT food card. The balance of your card is recalculated instantly after each purchase you make and you cannot overdraw on your food stamps account.

When do benefits get transferred to your EBT card?

Food stamps benefits are transferred to EBT cards on different days for different people. To figure out when you will receive benefits, look at the last number of your social security number. That is the day of the month that your EBT card will be refilled.

When does your EBT card balance expire?

Your EBT food stamps benefits will expire on the last day of each month at 11:59 pm. To make the most of your food stamps benefits, make sure to use up every penny by this time or the money will be forfeited and will go back into the SNAP fund system.

When can you check your EBT balance?

You can check your food stamps balance at any time. There are a few different ways to find out your account balance.

  • Look on the back of your EBT card for the customer service number. You will be asked some questions by an automated system and your account balance will be revealed.
  • Look on the bottom of your last grocery receipt. If you used your EBT card to buy the groceries it will show the remaining balance near the bottom of the receipt.
  • Ask the cashier to check how much money you have left on your EBT card. The cashier will need to scan your EBT card and will then print out a small receipt with your account balance and information on it.

When will you get your EBT card?

strawberriesOnce you have been accepted you will be asked to pick up your EBT card from your local social services office. You will then create a pin number while you are in the office and your card will be activated and ready to use.

When you receive your EBT card you are able to buy food immediately. You should receive a letter in the mail notifying you about how much money you have to spend on food each month.

To learn more about your eligibility financially, calculate your potential here. This calculator will give you an estimate on how many food stamps dollars you may receive and if you are eligible.

How much money can I have while still receiving benefits?

$2,000 is usually the cap on the amount of funds your household has access to while still receiving food stamps, however, that limit is raised to $3,000 for households that include someone who is disabled or older than 59.

What can you buy with food stamps?

Food stamps will buy you anything edible with a nutrition label and any fruits or vegetables. Seeds that will grow food are also covered by food stamps as well as some drinks with nutrition labels. Water can also be bought with EBT cards. Unbaked, prepackaged foods are also eligible to be bought using food stamps. That means that you can buy unbaked pizzas, and other deli products from your grocery stores.

A few quick tips to keep your food stamps budget on track

If you are a first time food stamper, you may realize that it can be difficult to spread the money evenly throughout each month to make sure you can make it until your next benefit day.

  • Divide the amount of food stamps you receive each month by four. For instance, if you receive $400 each month, and you divide that number by four, you are left with $100. That is the amount that you have to spend each week.
  • Remember that your benefits day may not fall on or even near the first of the month. The day your food stamps card is refilled depends on the last number of your social security number. So if your benefits day is the 9th, you will need to make sure your food budget can feed you until then.
  • Buy food on clearance sales. Much of the food you will find in the clearance section is nearing its expiration or sell-by date, but can be frozen or eaten with plenty of time to spare. Make sure you check the dates and follow the directions for freezing. This can be a big money saver and will make those food stamp dollars stretch.
  • Bulk foods are another great way to get the most from your food stamps budget. Buying food in bulk can lower the cost of food by almost half in some instances.
  • Use coupons when you go to the grocery store to save even more money.
  • Find U-Pick produce farms that accept EBT cards. Not only is your food guaranteed to be fresh, but it also will come at a cheaper price because you pick it yourself. Often at U-Pick farms, the more you buy the cheaper the prices so make sure to ask about special deals. Bring a friend or your children along for a fun day of picking. To find a farm that accepts EBT cards, click here.
  • Shop for produce that is in season. The longer grocers have to store produce, the higher the prices raise. Make sure you get the most out of your money by knowing what fruits and vegetables are growing in your area right now.
  • Stay away from the junk food aisles. Usually the processed, unhealthy foods are located in the center of the store while the healthy and cheaper items are located along the walls. Don’t fall prey to tricky product placement. Instead choose to steer clear of the boxed food aisles and buy food that is cheaper and more nutritionally satisfying.
  • Leave the family at home when you go grocery shopping. Having others around that can lead you into food temptations is not good for budget shopping. It leads to impulse buying which takes money away from the important items.
  • Eat a meal before going grocery shopping to avoid in-store food cravings. Nothing makes you spend more on junk food than when you are hungry in a grocery store. Save yourself the struggle and make sure you are nice a full before you push that cart.
  • Preserving your own food is another great way to save money while on food stamps. Canning, dehydrating and freezing are all great ways to make sure you have food on hand and will save you money because you will be able to avoid buying canned and frozen foods.
  • Grow your own food. When you receive food stamps you can buy seeds that produce food with your EBT card. Growing your own food can be immensely satisfying, as well as thrifty.

Food stamps can be used at almost any grocery store and at many convenience stores as well. As the number of people on food stamps grows in the United States, more and more companies are realizing the income potential of honoring food stamps. This means that restaurants are becoming involved as well. Some take and bake pizzerias now accept EBT cards for their unbaked pizzas.