Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

Last updated: November 18, 2013 by Dawn

Food is a basic necessity that impacts on many aspects of human survival. However, not everyone is lucky enough to have a constant and consistent supply of food.

While average families may already find it hard to make ends meet, the challenge is much harder for single parents.

To mitigate the effects of poverty on these individuals especially on single mothers and their kids, the U.S. federal government initiated the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The aim of SNAP is to provide affordable and healthy meals to the low- to no income families. Qualified applicants include single parents, elderly or disabled, homeless and the unemployed.

For many of the poorest Americans, SNAP has become the only form of income assistance they receive. Statistics show that one in five SNAP households lives on cash income of less than $2 per person a day.1

In 2011, 14% of Americans — about 1 in 7 — received $134, on average, in SNAP benefits.2 This data reflects the sheer number of people who lack basic food supply.

SNAP Participants FY2010

Source: USDA

The program is the modern alternative to the Food Stamp Program. From the quantity of food that can be availed to the manner of purchase, SNAP is a long way from its original structure.

Before, color-coded coupons were distributed to beneficiaries. Now, the assistance comes in the form of a debit card known as Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) that can be used to purchase grocery items in any participating store within their locality.

SNAP Eligibility Criteria

Eligibility for SNAP is based on family income and whether or not it is composed of members with disabilities of seniors. Once the income requirement is met, household size and gross income (adjusted) are the next factors for consideration.

You may be eligible SNAP benefits if you are:3

  • Unemployed;
  • Working for low wages or working part-time;
  • Receiving welfare or other public assistance payments;
  • Elderly or disabled and are low-income; or
  • Homeless.

SNAP Benefits [ FY2012 ]

Household Size Maximum Monthly Benefits Average Monthly Benefits
1 $200 $152
2 $367 $277
3 $526 $401
4 $668 $496
5 $793 $581
6 $952 $702
7 $1052 $719
Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

The actual amount of SNAP benefit you will get is the maximum allotment for your household size (see table above), minus 30% of your household’s net monthly income.

For example, a household of three with a net monthly income of $900 would get a food stamp allotment of $256.

Maximum allotment for household size of 3 $526
Subtract 30% of net monthly income (0.3 x 800) $270
Household food stamp benefit $256

Average Monthly SNAP Benefits Per Person →

As a condition of eligibility, single mothers seeking membership to SNAP are required to render several hours of work-related services to the SNAP Employment and Training Program. The activities vary according to the needs of applicants. It only serves to provide temporary support until applicants are capable of independently providing for their families.

Such activities include:

  • Enrolment in a secondary education program
  • Search for employment
  • Community Service
  • On-the-job Training
  • Actual employment

Since it started in 1939, SNAP benefited millions of Americans. In 2011 alone, more than 45 million individuals (14% of population) received supplemental support for food items from the U.S. federal government.4 This is reflective of the impact of the global economic crunch which affected countless lives all over the world.

To apply for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), you must fill out an application and return it to a local SNAP office.56

  1. Source: Off The Chart, SNAP and the Fight Against Extreme Poverty []
  2. Source: Congressional Budget Office, SNAP Inforgraphic []
  3. Facts about SNAP []
  4. In Washington, D.C., and Mississippi, more than one-fifth of residents receive food stamps. Source: Newsmax []
  5. SNAP Application and Local Office Locators []
  6. For more information, contact your State agency or call SNAP’s toll free information line at 1-800-221-5689. []