What Do I Need to Have to Qualify for Food Stamps?

by Amber Keefer ; Updated July 27, 2017
Food stamps help low income families eat nutritiously.

The federal Food Stamp Program, now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, may go by a name other than SNAP in your state. Individuals and families must meet both monthly gross income and monthly net income limits to be eligible for food stamps. Special rules apply to the elderly and disabled. You or a member of your household must go to the local assistance or Social Security office to apply for food stamps.

General Requirements

When applying for food stamps, you and all members of your household must have a Social Security number. If you do not, you must apply for one. You must be a U.S. citizen or have legal immigration status. You may also qualify to receive food stamps if you have resided in the U.S. for at least five years, are receiving assistance related to a disability or are a child who entered the country after October 1, 2003. If you are between the ages of 18 and 60 and are able-bodied, you must register for work if you are not currently employed. You may be required to participate in a training or employment program. Applicants for food stamps are required to prove their identity by showing identification in the form of a state driver’s license, birth certificate or resident alien card.

Proof of Income/Assets

When you apply for food stamps, you must show proof of income for each member of your household in the form of pay stubs from employers or statements showing Social Security, SSI benefits or pension income. You must also provide proof of any assets you own. Be prepared to present your vehicle registration and recent statements for bank accounts, IRA account statements and other investment records if applicable. Household resources—including cash, bank accounts and other things that you own—cannot total more than $2,000. You may have $3,000 in resources if you are disabled or age 60 or older.

Excluded Assets

Your household must not exceed the income limit set by the program. Income limits for food stamp eligibility vary by household size. The home in which you live does not count as a resource for food stamp purposes. Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and most pension plans also do not count as income, and therefore, are subtracted from your household income. In many states, the value of a household’s primary vehicle is excluded as an asset when determining eligibility for food stamps.

Allowable Deductions

To determine your net monthly income, subtract allowable deductions from the total gross income for your household. Basic deductions subtracted from gross income include a 20 percent deduction from earned income and a standard deduction amount based on the number of individuals living in the household. Other deductions you can claim include child support payments, shelter costs for homeless households and applicable dependent care costs when you or a member of your household is working, training for employment or attending school.

Proof of Monthly Expenses

When applying for food stamps, you must show proof of expenses including rent receipts or mortgage payment statements. You must also show recent receipts for utility payments and expenses for childcare when it applies. If any members in your household are age 60 or older, or receive Social Security or SSI because they are disabled, you must show any unpaid medical bills for the month for those individuals. Any amount of allowable medical expenses over $35 is deducted from household gross income as an allowable expense.

About the Author

Amber Keefer has more than 25 years of experience working in the fields of human services and health care administration. Writing professionally since 1997, she has written articles covering business and finance, health, fitness, parenting and senior living issues for both print and online publications. Keefer holds a B.A. from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and an M.B.A. in health care management from Baker College.

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