How to Apply for Food Stamps

To apply for food stamps in your state, you must have all the required documents needed to process your application. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides food assistance for people who need help getting food.

When you apply for SNAP benefits, you must meet certain eligibility requirements. The food stamps application clearly outlines what is required for food stamp eligibility. Review the following sections to learn how to apply for food stamps via each of the methods offered by the program: online, in person and by mail. Also, learn how to check your SNAP application status after submitting your completed application.

Documents Needed for a Food Stamps Application

Because each state has its own process for how to get food stamps, you must follow the documentation requirements for your state of residence. However, most food stamp application form types require the same kinds of information. When you apply for food stamps, you should have the following information on hand:

  • Proof of identity: You may prove your identity for your food stamps application by showing a copy of your driver’s license, state-issued photo ID, U.S. passport, naturalization certificate, birth certificate, adoption papers or voter registration card.
  • Proof of residence: When you sign up for food stamps, you must prove that each person applying for SNAP resides at the address you enter on the application. You can submit a statement from your landlord or primary tenant listing all the household members. Or your food stamps application can include a copy of your current lease, mortgage records, rent receipt listing the name and address of the renter and school records that verify any minor children’s address.
  • Statement of household size/composition: This document verifies how many people live in the household. The landlord or primary tenant statement mentioned above will suffice. You may also provide a statement from a community organization, a non-household member or a non-relative landlord.
  • Proof of age: Your food stamp application form must include verification of age for every person in the household applying for SNAP. Age can be proven with a birth certificate, baptismal certificate or passport.
  • Social Security Number (SSN): Each person who wants to apply in your household must provide a valid SSN. Usually, you can just write each person’s SSN on the food stamps application instead of showing a Social Security card for each family member.
  • Citizenship or immigration status: To apply for food stamps as a non-citizen, you must show USCIS documentation, such as a green card or a stamped visa. Documents proving U.S. citizenship include a birth certificate, U.S. passport, military service record, hospital records or a naturalization certificate.
  • Earned income status: Your food stamps application must include proof of income via current pay stubs, current tax returns or a letter from your employer stating what you earn and the hours you work.
  • Unearned income information: If you or any of your household members who apply for SNAP receive unearned income (such as child support, alimony payments, VA or unemployment insurance benefits) these must be documented. Provide a statement from the family court, Veterans Administration or the person providing the support.
  • Resource information: You may be asked as part of your food stamps application to show your bank records, property deeds, life insurance policies or vehicle registration/title.

Related Article: Food Stamps Eligibility Guidelines

Some states may require school attendance records for children on the food stamps application, while others will ask for dependent care or daycare receipts. If you apply for food stamps as a disabled person, you may need to show your current SSA or SSI benefits statement or a letter from a medical professional. Other states may require health insurance records along with your food stamps application.

How to Apply for Food Stamps Online

Specific instructions for how to complete a food stamp application online will vary from state to state. Most states allow you to apply for food stamps online, and most applicants choose this option due to convenience. Even if your state does not offer a way to complete a SNAP application online, you can still usually print an application and complete it at home before going to your local benefits office. Note that your state may use a name other than SNAP or “Food Stamps” for food assistance benefits. For example, California’s program is called CalFresh.

To apply for SNAP online, most states follow a procedure similar to these steps:

  1. Create an account or log in to your existing account on your state’s online benefits portal.
  2. Choose the option to start a new application.
  3. Carefully read all instructions and click “Next” to open the food stamp application form.
  4. Follow the prompts to provide all the information necessary to process your application.
  5. If you do not know the answer to a question, skip it.
  6. Upload any required documents for your SNAP application online, such as photos or PDFs of your identification, proof of income and residency.
  7. Follow the instructions to electronically sign your food stamp application form and submit it.
  8. Note instructions for scheduling your food stamp application interview and set this appointment, if possible.
  9. Attend your in-person or by-phone SNAP application interview.
  10. Receive your EBT card and go shopping.

How to Get Food Stamps in Person

If you lack internet access or simply prefer not to apply online, you may still find your state’s benefits website helpful for printing an application for food assistance or for locating your nearest SNAP office. To find out where to apply for food stamps nearby, search for “Social Services” or “Human Services”. You can also call the national toll-free SNAP information line at (800) 221-5689. You can apply for SNAP in person by following this general process:

  1. Collect required documents from the list provided above.
  2. Make an appointment with your local benefits office, either by phone or online.
  3. Fill out the food stamps application to the best of your ability. If you do not know the answer to a question, wait to receive help at your application submission appointment.
  4. Return the food stamps application to the SNAP office.
  5. Make an appointment for your interview and ask what you will need to bring to the interview. You may be able to schedule an interview by phone instead of returning to the office in person.
  6. If approved, receive your EBT card and go shopping.

Note that if you did not make an appointment, but simply stopped by your benefits office to pick up a food stamps application, you may be able to shorten the time between your submission and your application interview. Simply put your name and address on the food stamps application, sign and submit that page. Take the rest of the form home to finish and submit it later. Starting the process in this manner may help you get access to food sooner.

How to Sign Up for Food Stamps by Mail

If it is difficult for you to apply for food stamps online or in person, most states allow you to request a food stamps application over the phone. You may also choose to print your SNAP application online and submit it by mail. Be sure to collect the documents listed above and make copies to send in with your application. When you apply for SNAP by mail, you still have to go through the application interview and the entire process usually takes longer than the online or in-person application methods. However, you may be eligible for an interview by phone or get permission to have a relative or friend attend the interview in your place. Once your food stamps application is approved, you will learn the amount of your monthly benefit, receive an EBT card and use it to buy food for your household.

How to Check Your SNAP Application Status

If you submitted your SNAP application online, you can check on the status of your application anytime by logging into your online benefits account. Even if you submitted your food stamps application in person or by mail, you may have created an online account in the process or have received instructions for checking your application status online.

If checking the status of your food stamp application online is not an option, call your local SNAP office or your state’s food stamp information line. Do not contact the USDA, as all food stamps application requests are processed at the state level.

Related Article: Recent Changes to Food Stamps

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