What Is SNAP and Is It the Same as Food Stamps?

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SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, is a government program spearheaded by the Food and Nutrition Services branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The program provides benefits, in the form of reloadable debit cards, to families who need financial assistance. The money can be used to purchase foods such as bread, cereal, meat, fish and poultry, dairy products, snack foods and even seeds that can be used to grow foods.

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Although SNAP is a federal program, residents apply at the state level. Income eligibility requirements vary by state. In August 2021, for the first time in 24 years, the U.S. government re-evaluated the Thrifty Food Plan, which is the plan used to calculate SNAP benefits. As a result, benefit amounts increased to reflect current food prices at the time, while eligible food items expanded to include more fish and red and orange vegetables, according to a press release from the USDA. Additionally, the calorie allotment on the Thrifty Food Plan was increased slightly to reflect a healthy, active lifestyle.

The Thrifty Food Plan helps the U.S. government estimate the cost of a nutritious diet for a family of four. SNAP benefits are calculated using the TFP and then adjusted for the number of people in a household.

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To qualify for SNAP, recipients must have a gross monthly income — before any deductions are applied — at or below 130% of the poverty line. For instance, in 2022, a family of three can have an income of 130% of $1,830 per month, which is the current federal poverty line. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a family of three with a net income of roughly $28,550 may qualify for SNAP benefits. Additionally, net income, after deductions, must be at or below the poverty line. Finally, the family’s assets must also fall under certain limits: $3,750 if you have a person age 60+ or a person with a disability in your home, or $2,500 or less if you don’t have any older or disabled people in the household, according to the CBPP.

The SNAP program was previously known as the Food Stamp Program, or simply Food Stamps. Today, the books of stamps people would use to cash in their benefits have been replaced by Electronic Benefits Transfer cards, which look just like debit cards and are accepted in most grocery stores and at many other retailers who sell groceries, including Walmart and Target. Amazon also accepts EBT cards for eligible food purchases.

For more information or to apply, click here to get to the USDA website.

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