From our last article, we presented data showing that there are record numbers of people on public food assistance (food stamps or SNAP Benefits) and we explained why we think this number has been fairly high and remains high despite the improvement in the US economy and all the talk about recovery. Today, we want to talk about the top most asked questions on the food stamps program and our answers to them. Here they are:
1. How do I Qualify for Food Stamps
To find out if you qualify for food assistance, you have to contact your state’s agency that is responsible for the program. Even though the SNAP benefits program is a federal program, it is administered at the state level. The qualification criteria is generally uniform and set by the federal government through the United States Department of Agriculture. However, states are free to set their own additional requirements beyond the federal guidelines, which some states have attempted to do. For example the state of Georgia wanted to require drug testing for food stamps applicants, which was rejected by the Department of Agriculture.
2. Can you get Food Stamps and be Employed
There is a big misconception that only people who are unemployed or lazy apply for food stamps. There is also the general belief that most people getting food assistance are getting it to help an elderly person or a child in their household. However, there are more people employed that are receiving help with food assistance than there are children or elderly people on the program. That speaks to the magnitude of the problem and why there should be no shame in applying for the program. So, the answer is yes, you can apply for SNAP benefits even if you are employed. As the video above shows, there are growing number of people on food stamps in the middle class now – highlighting the devastating effects of the recession.
3. What Can I Use my EBT Card to Purchase
The EBT Card is the card that people on food assistance get to make their food purchases. It is a prepaid debit card and the money for food aid is deposited on the card so you can use it to buy food like any other debit card you have in your wallet. However, there is one difference. You are only allowed to use this card to purchase a specific list of food items, unlike say the Social Security Benefits Prepaid Debit Card, which can be used to purchase whatever the recipient wants to buy . Since the goal of the program is to help people get food they absolutely need, it is understandable why you cannot use the card to purchase food at restaurants or hot foods. Here are the foods you can buy using your EBT Card:
Households CAN use SNAP benefits to buy:
- Foods for the household to eat, such as:
- breads and cereals;
- fruits and vegetables;
- meats, fish and poultry; and
- dairy products.
- Seeds and plants which produce food for the household to eat.
In some areas, restaurants can be authorized to accept SNAP benefits from qualified homeless, elderly, or disabled people in exchange for low-cost meals.
As you can see, this is not a list that allows you to buy “luxury” food items but the basic necessities that you absolutely need.