A Complete Guide to SNAP Benefits

Muncie - Circa January 2018: A Sign at a Retailer - We Accept SNAP.
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The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise known as SNAP, is the largest federal nutrition assistance program. As of 2021, 41.5 million Americans participated in the SNAP program, which provides benefits to eligible low-income individuals and families by allowing them to purchase eligible food in authorized retail food stores via an Electronic Benefits Transfer card.

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Here’s a closer look at everything you need to know about SNAP.

What Is the Difference Between SNAP and Food Stamps?

The SNAP program and Food Stamps are one and the same. The SNAP program was previously called the Food Stamp Program, or simply Food Stamps, because of the books of stamps people would use to make purchases. Today, the stamps have been replaced by Electronic Benefits Transfer cards, which look just like debit cards and are accepted in most grocery stores and at many other retailers that sell groceries, including Walmart, Target and Amazon.

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Who Is Eligible for SNAP?

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) sets the eligibility requirements, with the size of a family’s SNAP benefit based on its income and certain expenses.

To be eligible for benefits, a household’s income and resources must meet these three criteria:

  • Gross monthly income, which is a household’s monthly income before the program’s deductions are applied, must be at or below 130% of the federal poverty line. For a family of three, the poverty line used to determine SNAP benefits in the federal fiscal year 2022 is $1,830 a month. One-hundred-thirty percent of this amount is $2,379 a month, or around $28,550 a year. 
  • Net income, which is household income after deductions are applied, must be at or below the federal poverty line. 
  • Assets must fall below certain thresholds. Households without a member who is age 60 or older or who has a disability must have assets of $2,500 or less, and households with such a member must have assets of $3,750 or less.

What Items Can Be Purchased With SNAP Benefits?

Food items that can be prepared at home are typically eligible for purchase with SNAP benefits. Food that is hot when sold and food that is sold to be eaten in the store are not eligible. 

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, these foods are eligible for SNAP:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Meat, poultry and fish
  • Dairy products
  • Breads and cereals
  • Snack foods and non-alcoholic beverages
  • Seeds and plants, which produce food for the household to eat
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What SNAP Benefits Are Available in My State?

Although SNAP is a federal program, benefits are administered by the individual states. This means benefits are distributed inconsistently across the country. While eligibility requirements and benefit levels are uniform across all states except Alaska and Hawaii, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the way benefits are calculated can vary from one state to the next.

Here’s a general look at the maximum and minimum allotments in each state:

  • For the 48 contiguous states and Washington, D.C., the maximum allotment for a family of four is $835 per month.
  • In Alaska, a family of four can receive between $1,074 and $1,667 per month, depending on their rural/urban designation.
  • In Hawaii, the monthly limit is $1,573 for a family of four.
  • The minimum benefit is $20 in D.C. and the lower 48, $40 in Alaska and $38 in Hawaii.

What Else You Need To Know About SNAP

For more info on SNAP, check out some of GOBankingRates’ most-read stories on the topic:

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Dawn Allcot, Andrew Lisa and Josephine Nesbit contributed to the reporting for this article.

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About the Author

Gabrielle joined GOBankingRates in 2017 and brings with her a decade of experience in the journalism industry. Before joining the team, she was a staff writer-reporter for People Magazine and People.com. Her work has also appeared on E! Online, Us Weekly, Patch, Sweety High and Discover Los Angeles, and she has been featured on “Good Morning America” as a celebrity news expert. 
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