The Steps in Applying and Receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Benefits

1. Look for you local SNAP office

If you are qualified to receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Food Stamp benefits, you can use the interactive map provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to find your local SNAP office or state application.

Did you know that if you have SSI benefits, or are applying for one, your local Social Security office can help you with your SNAP application as well? They have all the necessary forms which they can also send to their sister SNAP office.

Each state manages its own SNAP services. Check what name the state you live in uses for the benefits. Like in Florida, it is called Food Assistance Program, while in California the program is called CalFresh.

2. Follow application instructions given by your local SNAP office

Numerous states allow residents to apply online, while others will ask you to download and print an application. Some offices will call to have you pick one up in person or have one mailed to you. Remember that each state’s application process will differ, but know that the information requested will basically be the same. These will include:

  • the number of dependents in the household
  • financial information
    • house payments
    • how much is spent on rent
    • heating, cooling, and other utilities
    • childcare costs
    • money in the bank account
    • cash on hand
    • work income
  • Medical information for the people who reside in the household
  • Government benefits you currently collect or have received in the past (i.e. Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, or veteran's benefits)
  • other sources or benefits (i.e. SSI, Social Security, unemployment benefits, or child support)

3. Submitting your application

You may submit your application online, through snail mail, or in person. Note that when you submit your application in person, it is possible for you to be automatically screened for faster processing. This allows you to receive the benefits more quickly.

The application process can go as fast as five days, but no matter how you apply, you will most likely receive your SNAP benefits within 30 days. Have not heard from the SNAP office? Call the local SNAP office.

4. The interview

When applying, you also need to schedule and attend an interview. There, you will need to present specific documents of your financial circumstance. These may include:

  • Proof of your identity (i.e driver’s license, state, or military identification card)
  • Social Security numbers of everyone applying.
  • Proof of address (unless you are homeless), such as rent receipt, mortgage statement, lease, electric, gas, phone, or water bill.
  • Proof of the amount of all earned and unearned monthly income.
  • Proof of childcare expenses.
  • Proof of child support payments you make (i.e. separation agreement, support order, or child support payment records).
  • Proof of medical expenses if you are age 60 or older and/or receive federal disability benefits.
  • Name, age, and the relationship of all household members.
  • Proof of immigration status for all applying non-citizens.

5. Get your EBT card

After meeting all the requirements and interview, you will receive a notification in the mail about your expected benefits. You will also receive a plastic electronic card (an EBT card) which you can use when food shopping.

6. Always follow the rules once you accept your card

The SNAP benefits can only be used to buy approved food items. If you try to buy items that are not approved, you may be penalized or even have your benefits taken away.