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SNAP: The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps)

  • Published: 2012-08-27 (Revised/Updated 2017-05-30) : Wendy Taormina-Weiss (Disabled World).
  • Synopsis: Information and eligibility for US food stamps now known as The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
Food Stamps

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, helps low-income people buy food. Although it is a U.S. federal government program, it is run by state or local agencies. To apply for benefits, or for information about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, contact your local SNAP office.

Main Document

Quote: "Most of SNAP's rules apply to every household, although there are certain rules for households with people who are over the age of 60 or have a form of disability."

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or, 'SNAP,' which was called, 'food stamps,' in the past assists people with low-incomes to purchase food.

While it is a program through the federal government, it is run by state and local agencies. Anyone may apply for SNAP although a person and others in their household need to meet specific conditions.

Everyone who is applying in a household needs to have or apply for a Social Security number and must be either a United States citizen, a U.S. national, or have status as a qualified alien.

SNAP and Qualified Aliens

SNAP considers various people to be, 'qualified aliens.' People who are considered to be qualified aliens are eligible for SNAP without having to go through a waiting period. Qualified aliens include the following populations:

  • Asylees under Section 208 of the INA
  • Legal immigrant children younger than 18
  • Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR) who have a military connection
  • Refugees admitted under Section 207 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA)
  • Legal immigrants with disabilities or who are blind and receive disability benefits or assistance
  • Haitian or Cuban entrants under Section 501(e) of the Refugee Education Assistance Act of 1980
  • Immigrants whose removal or deportation is withheld under Section 241(b)(3) or 243(h) of the INA
  • People who were born on or before August 22nd, 1931 and legally lived in America on August 22nd, 1996
  • Amerasian immigrants under Section 584 of the Foreign Operations, Export Financing and Related Programs Appropriations Act of 1988

Certain aliens are considered to be eligible for SNAP even if they are not considered to be, 'qualified aliens.' These aliens are eligible without the waiting period. The populations mentioned include the following:

  • American Indians born in Canada
  • Members of Indian tribes under Section 4(e) of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act
  • Highland Laotian or Hmong tribal members and their children and spouses who helped the U.S. military during the Vietnam era

A population of qualified aliens exists that are eligible if they have lived in America for five years from the date of their entry, or if they have a sufficient work history of 40 work credits in order to qualify. These people include:

  • LPR's who may be eligible sooner than five years if they have 40 work credits
  • Parolees who were paroled for at least one year under Section 212(d)(5) of INA
  • Conditional entrants under 203(a)(7) of INA in effect before April 1st of 1980
  • A battered child, spouse, or parent or child of a battered person with a petition under 204(a)(1)(A) or (B) or 244(a)(3) of INA

The majority of people who are able-bodied and between the ages of 18 and 60 has to register to work in order to qualify for SNAP. Many people might be required to participate in a training or employment program. Some college students might be eligible for SNAP.

U.S. Yearly Disability SNAP Statistics

In Receipt of Food Stamps/Snap in Past 12 Months by Disability Status for Households
Household received Food Stamps/SNAP in the past 12 months15,399,651
Households with 1 or more persons with a disability6,767,287
Households with no persons with a disability8,632,364
Household did not receive Food Stamps/SNAP in the past 12 months101,526,654
Households with 1 or more persons with a disability22,577,065
Households with no persons with a disability78,949,589

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2011-2015 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates (2011-2015).

Resource Limitations Affecting Eligibility for SNAP

A household will usually not qualify if it has more than $2,000 in resources, or possessions. However, if a household includes a person with disabilities, or who is over the age of 60, the resource limit is $3,000. The resources of people who receive either Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are not counted in relation to SNAP. Resources include things such as bank accounts, cash, and additional property.

Not every resource a person owns counts in relation to SNAP. For example, a person's home and the land it is on do not count for SNAP eligibility. A truck or a car counts differently depending upon how it is used. The majority of states now use TANF rules in place of SNAP vehicle rules if the TANF rules are more beneficial to a SNAP household.

The majority of household must also meet an income limitation. Certain things do not count as income and may be subtracted from the household's income. A household might qualify for other income exclusions if it includes a person with disabilities or person who is over the age of 60. The income limitations vary depending upon the size of the household and might change every year.

Applying for SNAP

Applications for SNAP are available through any Social Security office. If the people in a household are applying for, or already are receiving SSI payments, any Social Security office can help them to fill out the application for SNAP and send it to their local SNAP office for them. Others, to include people who are applying for or receiving only Social Security, need to take or send their SNAP applications to their local SNAP office, or to any Social Security office where a SNAP representative works. When a person is interviewed they need to have the following:

  • Records of utility costs
  • Proof of how much is spent for childcare
  • Proof of income for every member of the household
  • Rent receipts or proof of mortgage payment amounts
  • Identification - a state ID, driver's license, alien card, or birth certificate
  • Medical bills for members of the household who are over age 60 or receive SSI due to a form of disability

SNAP Rules for the Elderly or Disabled

Most of SNAP's rules apply to every household, although there are certain rules for households with people who are over the age of 60 or have a form of disability. A person is considered to be, 'elderly,' if they are over the age of 60. A person is considered to be a person with disabilities in relation to SNAP if they:

  • Receive State blindness or disability payments
  • Are considered to be disabled based on SSI rules
  • Receive an annuity under the Railroad Retirement Act and are eligible for Medicare
  • Are a veteran who is totally disabled, permanently housebound, or in need of regular attendance or an aide
  • Are a surviving child or spouse of a veteran who is receiving VA benefits and are considered to be permanently disabled
  • Receive Federal blindness or disability payments under the Social Security Act to include SSI or SSDI or blindness payments
  • Receive a disability retirement benefit from a governmental agency due to a disability considered to be permanent under the Social Security Act

Eligibility for Emergency SNAP

Emergency SNAP benefits may be, 'expedited,' meaning a household might receive them within seven days. People in need can go in person to a SNAP office to apply. To be eligible for emergency SNAP a person must meet three criteria:

  • Monthly income less than $150 and money in the bank less than $100
  • The applicant must be a migrant worker and have less than $100 in the bank
  • Money and income in the bank adding up to less than the monthly housing expenses

Finding Out How Much SNAP a Household is Eligible For

The amount of benefits a household receives is referred to as an, 'allotment.' The net amount of income of a household is multiplied by .3. The result is then subtracted from the maximum allotment for the household size in order to find the household's allotment. The reason for this formula is because SNAP expects households to spend approximately 30% of their resources on food.

If a household applies for SNAP after the first day of the month, SNAP benefits will be provided from the day the household applies. SNAP benefits are available to every household that is eligible regardless of national origin, race, sex, religious creed, or political beliefs. Members of a household can find out how much SNAP they might be able to get online through the SNAP Pre-Screening Tool at:

Nutritional Value

A new American Cancer Society study suggests that participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, previously known as the food stamp program, had lower dietary quality scores compared with income eligible non-participants. The authors say the findings emphasize the need to bolster programs aimed at enhancing the dietary quality of SNAP participants.

Although SNAP aims to help families "put food on the table" and prevent food insecurity, some studies have found that SNAP participation is also linked to increased likelihood of weight gain and obesity. The 2014 Farm Bill included several provisions aimed at facilitating and encouraging SNAP participants to eat healthier, including requiring SNAP retailers to carry foods from a range of food groups and more fresh foods and creating a pilot program to provide for grants to test the use of incentives to encourage fruit and vegetable purchases by SNAP participants. SNAP-Ed, the nutrition education companion to the SNAP program, has been revamped in recent years with the goal of promoting healthier food choices.

For their study researchers led by Binh T. Nguyen, PhD, of the American Cancer Society, explored the diet quality of SNAP participants using data from a nationally representative sample of over 4,000 adult Americans from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2003-2010 (NHANES).

Their analyses revealed that compared with low-income nonparticipants, SNAP participants had lower dietary quality scores overall and lower scores for fruits and vegetables, seafood and plant proteins, and had higher intake of empty calories. The groups had comparable scores on intakes of whole grains, refined grain, total dairy, total protein, fatty acid, and sodium. The researchers found that the relationship between SNAP participation and lower dietary quality was primarily observed in women, Hispanics, young adults and those who were food secure.

"The results suggest a need for interventions that encourage a healthier diet among SNAP participants in general but also particularly in the subgroups we've identified as being particularly at risk," said Dr. Nguyen. "We do, however, want to emphasize the importance of SNAP; our findings underscore the need for additional education, incentives, and other interventions to make sure not only that people are getting calories, but also that they're getting them from the right foods."


USDA Food and Nutrition - SNAP -

NYC Human Resources Administration -

Project Bread - Getting Snap -

Related Information:

  1. Seniors at Risk of Hunger Due to Cuts to US Food Stamp Program - The Farm Bill and SNAP a crucial safety net for low income seniors who often are at greater risk of food insecurity.
  2. Food Stamps Linked To Weight Gain - The link between food stamp use and BMI with higher weight gain remains clear especially for women.
  3. Project to Identify Philadelphia Seniors Eligible for Food Assistance - New Pilot Project Will Help DPW Identify Philadelphia Seniors Who are Eligible for Food Assistance.

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