Food Stamps Eligibility Guidelines

Food stamps eligibility is not guaranteed to all applicants. In fact, strict food stamp qualifications may be difficult to meet for some who apply for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Food stamp requirements are designed to reserve the benefit for low-income individuals who are most at-risk of experiencing true hunger due to food scarcity and limited buying power.

SNAP income guidelines may vary somewhat by state, so it is important to check your state’s requirements before completing your application. You must also apply for SNAP in the state in which you currently live. If you are wondering, “Do I qualify for food stamps?” continue reading to learn about food stamp eligibility requirements, including SNAP income, age, disability and household size guidelines.

Food Stamp Income Guidelines

Food stamp income guidelines are set for both gross monthly income and net monthly income. Gross monthly income is how much your household earns each month before any deductions are made. Net income is your gross income minus deductions that are allowed for SNAP participants.

In most cases, you will meet food stamp qualifications if you are already receiving another means-tested program such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Current SNAP income guidelines for the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia are listed below.

Household Size Gross Monthly Income

(130 Percent of FPL)

Net Monthly Income

(100 Percent of FPL)

1 $1,316 $1,012
2 $1,784 $1,372
3 $2,252 $1,732
4 $ 2,270 $2,092
5 $3,188 $2,452
6 $3,656 $2, 812
7 $4,124 $2, 172
8 $4,592 $3,532


For each additional household member above eight, add $468 to the gross income figure or $360 to the net income level. Note that gross and net SNAP eligibility income limits are different in Alaska, Hawaii, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. These figures can be obtained at your local benefits office or online.

Related Article: Food Stamps Eligibility Guidelines

Certain deductions are allowed when meeting food stamp qualifications. They include a 20 percent deduction from earned income, the standard tax deduction for your household size and dependent care deductions. SNAP eligibility also permits deducting medical expenses for disabled or elderly applicants that total $35 or above for the month, if they have not been paid by insurance or someone else.

In addition to meeting certain income guidelines, there are limits to the resources you can have and still qualify for food stamps. Households may have $2,250 in countable resources including cash or money in a bank account. Vehicles are usually counted as a resource when determining SNAP eligibility, but how they count differs by state. In most cases, food stamp requirements do not count vehicles as a resource if they are used to produce income, used as a home or needed to transport a physically disabled member of the household.

Resources that are not counted toward food stamps eligibility include:

  • A home and land or lot
  • Resources of people who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Retirement and pension plans

Who is included in a SNAP household?

Food stamp requirements include defining who part of the SNAP household is. In most cases for SNAP eligibility, everyone who lives together in a home and purchases and prepares meals together makes up a household. Households with older children that are younger than 22 years of age can still count them toward food stamp eligibility even if they purchase and prepare their meals separately.

Elderly applicants may meet food stamp qualifications for a separate household if they are age 60 or older, are unable to purchase and prepare meals separately due to disability and if their income is no more than 165 percent of the federal poverty level.

Special SNAP Eligibility Rules for the Elderly or Disabled

Most food stamp requirements apply to all SNAP applicants, but there are some specific eligibility factors for elderly or disabled petitioners. To qualify for food stamps as an elderly applicant, you must be 60 years of age or older. SNAP eligibility for disabled applicants is somewhat more complicated. Disabled applicants must meet one of the following criteria:

  • Receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security disability, blindness payments, or you receive federal, state disability or blindness payments based on SSI rules
  • Have a permanent disability and receive a disability retirement payment from a government agency because of it
  • Receive an annuity due to the Railroad Retirement Act and are considered disabled under SSI or are eligible for Medicare
  • Are a totally disabled veteran in need of regular aid and attendance and/or you are permanently homebound
  • Are a surviving spouse or child of a permanently disabled veteran who is receiving VA benefits

Note that elderly and disabled applicants only have to meet net SNAP income guidelines described in the income requirements section above. Elderly and disabled applicants may qualify for food stamps with up to $3,500 in countable resources. Most retirement and pension plans are not counted as resources when applying for SNAP.

SNAP Benefit Work Requirements

One factor in how to qualify for food stamps is to meet state work requirements. Most SNAP eligibility work requirements include registering for work, taking any job that is offered and not cutting back your hours or voluntarily quitting a job. Your state may also tie SNAP eligibility to participating in employment and training programs. Able bodied adults without dependents must work or participate in a work program for a minimum of 20 hours per week to qualify for food stamps for more than three months in a 36-month period. Seniors, children, pregnant women and certain people with physical or mental health issues may not be subject to SNAP eligibility work requirements.

Citizenship Requirements for Food Stamp Benefits

A common misconception is that food stamps eligibility has been extended to undocumented non-citizens. This is not the case. Food stamps eligibility is only extended to U.S. citizens and certain non-citizens who:

  • Are lawfully present.
  • Have lived in the U.S. for at least five years.
  • Are children younger than 18 years of age.
  • Are receiving disability-related benefits or assistance.

These petitioners must meet food stamp income guidelines, resource limits and other eligibility requirements.

How do I learn my state’s SNAP benefit requirements?

How to qualify for food stamps may vary somewhat between states. In some states, legally-owed child support payments are acceptable deductions, while other states provide a standard shelter deduction for homeless households hoping to qualify for food stamps. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides an interactive map online to help you find your local SNAP office and learn specific SNAP eligibility details for your current state of residence. If you do not know your local SNAP office location, you can also call the national SNAP information line at (800) 221-5689.

Related Article: How To Apply for Food Stamps

It might also interest you: