A QUICK GUIDE TO SNAP AND BASIC FOOD – SEPTEMBER 23
Author: Leah Horton, VP of Philanthropy
For families and communities facing hunger, SNAP is making a huge difference in their economic well-being and ability to stay fed. SNAP—the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that was formerly called food stamps and is known as Basic Food in Washington state—is our nation’s first line of defense against hunger, providing food benefits that are timely, targeted and temporary. Across our region, there are thousands of families and children using SNAP to buy food every day. It is the largest program working to fight hunger in America. When the rising costs of daily necessities or unexpected medical bills make it difficult for people to afford food, SNAP helps them stretch their budgets and put food on their tables.
As more neighbors struggle to make ends meet amidst the economic challenges of inflation, we’d like to shed light on who is eligible for SNAP benefits, how to apply and what assistance is available.
Who is eligible for Basic Food or SNAP?
If you meet the eligibility requirements, you can apply for SNAP. Every state has different requirements for eligibility. These requirements might include:
- Household income must be at or below a certain level.
- Household resources or assets, such as savings and bank accounts, must be less than a certain amount.
- At least one U.S. citizen or person with eligible immigration status must live in the household.
Check with your local SNAP office or your local food bank for help in understanding if you are eligible. There is no risk to see if you are eligible for SNAP. If your state agency determines that you are eligible to receive SNAP benefits, you will receive benefits back to the date you submitted your application.
Ultimately, SNAP is for anyone—families, seniors, people living with disabilities, people who are unemployed or employed, and veterans or active military members.
How do you apply for Basic Food or SNAP?
You may be able to apply for SNAP online, by mail or by phone. Each state has a different application form and process, so we recommend connecting with your local food bank or SNAP office for complete details for your area.
Once you submit your SNAP application, it may take up to 30 days to process your application. Additionally, you may need to complete an interview with your SNAP office during your application review.
Idaho and Washington have different guidelines for eligibility and application. For specific information, please visit the following websites:
How does Basic Food or SNAP work?
People using SNAP receive monthly funds through a benefits card that is similar to a debit card. The amount received each month depends on income and family size. You can purchase food at many local grocery stores, convenience stores, farmers markets and some online delivery services like Walmart and Amazon.
What can you buy with Basic Food or SNAP?
You can use SNAP to buy food items, including:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Meat, fish and poultry
- Dairy products
- Bread and cereals
- Snacks and beverages
- Seeds and plants to grow food for your family
SNAP benefits, however, cannot be used to buy:
- Alcohol or tobacco products
- Non-food items like pet food, cleaning supplies, household supplies like toilet paper, or hygiene items like shampoo, menstrual products, baby formula or diapers
- Live animals
- Vitamins and medicines
Are there other ways to get free groceries and other forms of support?
Second Harvest provides a wide variety of assistance to help you and your family put food on the table and stretch your budget. Visit our “Food Near Me” webpage to see our upcoming Mobile Market schedule, use our interactive map to locate free food in your community and find a schedule of free community cooking classes in Second Harvest’s kitchen.