A Complete Guide to SNAP Benefits

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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 Today, the stamps have been replaced by Electronic Benefits Transfer cards, which look just like debit cards and are accepted in most grocery stores and at many other retailers that sell groceries,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:

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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:

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.

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

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.