Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

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.

Statistics show that one in seven American households struggles to put enough food on the table.1

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, the U.S. federal government initiated the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The aim is to provide affordable and nutritionally adequate diet to the low- to no income families; protecting them from hardship & hunger.

SNAP Statistics

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.2

In 2011, 14% of Americans — about 1 in 7 — received $134, on average, in SNAP benefits.3 This data reflects the sheer number of people who lack basic food supply.

According to the recent data, nearly 47.6 million were on food stamps in 2013 with an average of $133 per month in food assistance.4 Nearly half (45%) of all SNAP participants were children under age 18.5

Characteristics of SNAP Participants: FY2012

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), which is loaded with benefits once a month and can be used to purchase grocery items in any participating store within their locality.

Am I Eligible for SNAP?

Eligibility for SNAP is based on family income and whether or not it is composed of members with disabilities or 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:6

  • 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 rules limit eligibility to households with gross income under 130% of poverty and net income at or below 100% of poverty — about $19,790 for a single mother of two children.

Use SNAP’s pre-screening tool to see if you are eligible for SNAP benefits. When you begin using the tool, you will answer some questions which the tool uses to determine your eligibility and estimate the amount of benefits you might get.

Some states may have their own pre-screening tools for SNAP eligibility. If you live in one of those states, the system will automatically direct you to the state’s pre-screening tool.

SNAP Benefits [ FY2013 ]

Household Size Maximum Monthly Benefits Average Monthly Benefits
1 $189 $148
2 $347 $265
3 $497 $395
4 $632 $480
5 $750 $563
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 $227.

Maximum allotment for household size of 3 $497
Subtract 30% of net monthly income (0.3 x 900) $270
Household food stamp benefit $227

Most families under the SNAP program receive benefits for a 6-month period, at which point the recipient will have to submit a renewal application.

As a condition of eligibility, single mothers applying for SNAP benefits 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.

Such activities include:

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

All of these only serve to provide temporary support until applicants are capable of independently providing for their families.

How do I apply for Food Stamps?

To apply for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), you must fill out an application and return it to a local SNAP office.7 After your application is filed, the SNAP office will review your information, conduct an interview, and determine your eligibility for SNAP.

Depending on which state you live, you may contact your local SNAP agency or call SNAP’s toll free information line at 1-800-221-5689.

  1. Economic Research Service/USDA – Household Food Security in the United States in 2013 []
  2. Off The Chart, SNAP and the Fight Against Extreme Poverty []
  3. Congressional Budget Office, SNAP Inforgraphic []
  4. SNAP Monthly Data as of September 5, 2014 []
  5. USDA, Characteristics of SNAP Households: Fiscal Year 2012 []
  6. Facts about SNAP []
  7. SNAP Application and Local Office Locators []