Food stamps are provided through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a federally-funded program operated by individual states to assist low-income Americans with buying healthy food. Benefits are based on monthly income and household size; in general, households with an income equal to or less than 130 percent of the federal poverty guidelines for their household size are eligible for help. A household can consist of a single member.
Single people (a household of one) are eligible for food stamps if their income is below 130 percent of the poverty level. As of 2011, anyone who is not elderly or disabled with a monthly income of less than $1,174 per month before deductions can qualify for food stamp benefits. If you are elderly or disabled, the income threshold is $903. If you are receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits or social security income, you automatically qualify for food stamps.
In most cases, if you are single between the ages of 18 and 50 and do not have any dependents, you are required to work, or participate in a workfare or employment training program to receive food stamps. If you do not work, you can only receive food stamps for up to three months in any 36-month period. In order to keep your food stamps benefits if you are single and between the ages of 16 and 60 and not disabled, you must engage in a qualifying work activity. Qualifying work activities include registering for work, participating in a workfare training program and accepting suitable employment.
If you are single and receiving food stamps, the amount of your monthly benefit will be much lower than that of larger households. According to the USDA, you are expected to allocate at least 30 percent of your resources on food, and the maximum allotment for one person is $200 per month. If you qualify for food stamps, your monthly benefit amount is determined by multiplying your income after deductions by 0.3, and subtracting that result from the maximum allotment. The final number is your monthly benefit amount, which may be significantly less than the maximum amount allowed.
Regardless of household size, you are limited to $2,000 in countable assets, or $3,000 if you are over 60 or disabled, in order to qualify for food stamps. Countable assets include bank accounts or stocks and bonds. The following items are not considered assets: your home and home lot, most retirement plans, public assistance benefits, social security income and your vehicle, if it is used for work or to transport a disabled person.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Supplemental Nutrition Assisitance Program
- Food and Nutrition Service. "SNAP Data Tables, Latest Available Month July 2019 State Level Participation & Benefits," Accessed Oct. 21, 2019.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture. "Official USDA Food Plans: Cost of Food at Home at Four Levels, U.S. Average, August 2019," Accessed Oct. 21, 2019.
- Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. "A Quick Guide to SNAP Eligibility and Benefits," Accessed Oct. 21, 2019.
- USDA." What Can SNAP Buy?" Accessed Oct. 21, 2019.
An adjunct instructor at Central Maine Community College, Kristen Hamlin is also a freelance writer on topics including lifestyle, education, and business. She is the author of Graduate! Everything You Need to Succeed After College (Capital Books), and her work has appeared in Lewiston Auburn Magazine, Young Money, USA Today and a variety of online outlets. She has a B.A. in Communication from Stonehill College, and a Master of Liberal Studies in Creative Writing from the University of Denver.