A SNAPshot Of Food Stamp Income Limits Across The Country

It’s not your imagination — food prices are insane. According to recent findings by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, food-at-home (grocery store or supermarket food purchases) rose by over 11 percent in 2022 alone. Those numbers include food staples like milk, bread, and eggs, making it nearly impossible for many to keep up with the costs of feeding their families.

Food insecurity is a real problem that is only worsening with the rising costs of food. In fact, the USDA also reported that in 2021, well over 30 million Americans lived in food-insecure households. And for families experiencing this crisis firsthand, the stigma associated with receiving food assistance prevents many from accessing programs that could otherwise help them afford the foods they need to maintain proper, or even basic, nutrition because of the fear or embarrassment of being denied or judged.

Of the many food assistance programs available, the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) or “food stamps” is among the most highly stigmatized, yet it is one of the most accessible ways for families to bolster their food budgets.

What is SNAP?

The SNAP program is a federally-funded, state-administered nutrition program designed to provide low-income families with a monthly food stipend. Recipients typically receive funds in the form of an EBT (electronic benefit transfer) card that can be swiped at the cash register, just like a debit or credit card. The awarded amount is determined by household income and size, among other factors, but the average participant receives an estimated $127 per month.

Who qualifies for SNAP?

Because program regulations vary by state, families should check with their county to see if they qualify. Generally, gross household income must be at or below 130 to 200 percent of the poverty line, although each county applies standard deductions to incomes for necessities, including utilities and recurring medical expenses. Assets such as checking and savings account balances are also used to determine qualification.

Citizens and qualified immigrants are eligible to apply. Some states also offer benefits to undocumented children, or adults over 55 years old.

A SNAPshot Of Income Limits In U.S. Cities*

  • Atlanta: $3,007
  • Austin: $3,816
  • Boston: $4,626
  • Honolulu: $5,320
  • Kansas City: $3,006
  • Los Angeles: $4,626
  • New York: $4,626
  • Phoenix: $4,626

*Based on gross income for households of 4 and state income eligibility standards for the fiscal year 2023

How To Apply For SNAP Benefits

Those interested in applying for SNAP should check with their local office for details on program limits and how to apply. Typically, each state or county will require applicants to:

  • Assess eligibility
  • Demonstrate proof of identity (Social Security card, birth certificate, residency card, etc.)
  • Show proof of income (tax returns, pay stubs, etc.) and shelter costs, if applicable
  • Complete an application

A decision is usually made within 30 days. For those that qualify, an EBT card will be provided and loaded with benefits on a set monthly date. For those denied, an appeals process is available.

What can you purchase with SNAP benefits?

Though there are exceptions or instances where recipients will qualify for hot meals or cash benefits that can be used to buy non-grocery items, most SNAP benefits can only buy food items. This means that alcohol, tobacco, household supplies, toiletries, cosmetics, hot foods, and over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, and supplements are excluded.

Tips for Stretching SNAP Benefits

Blanca Garcia, a Los Angeles-based Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, says she has and continues to work with clients who use the SNAP program, and that although it does assist them in meeting their nutritional needs, it doesn’t completely cover the costs. “I have seen their struggles with access to food and helped them figure out how to best use the benefits they receive,” said Garcia.

She shares these top tips for maximizing SNAP Benefits:

Leverage Market Match: “You can go to a participating farmers’ market, go to the information booth, and request for your EBT card to be swiped. For the amount of money you request, the market will match you. For example, if you ask for $10 from your EBT card, you will get an additional $10 to spend at the farmer’s market. This is usually given in vouchers, doubling your spending ability.”

Buy In Season: “Most fruits and vegetables are way cheaper if you buy them in season. Visit Seasonal Food Guide to find what produce is in season. This website also has an app you can download and use while you are at the grocery store. Believe it or not, the difference can be quite significant; for example, a 200-gram container of blueberries in season can cost 99 cents, and off-season can cost up to 5 dollars.”

Shop At Wholesale Warehouses: “You may be able to get great discounts buying in bulk at [wholesale retailers like Costco or Sam’s Club]. These warehouses accept EBT and can save you plenty of your SNAP funds.”

Additional food resources:

USDA SNAP State Directory of Resources

USDA Food Assistance Programs

Summer Food Service Program

Feeding America Food Bank Finder

Originally Posted Here

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