Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Benefits Explained

Published 9:00 am Sunday, April 2, 2023

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Created in 1939, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the largest federal nutrition program in the country. SNAP serves every community in the U.S. and helps millions of Americans buy healthy food each year. In this article, we will share information on how to check your eligibility for SNAP, how to apply, and how you can use SNAP benefits for you and your family.

SNAP can help you and your family pay for:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Meat, poultry, and fish
  • Snack foods
  • Bread and cereal
  • Dairy products
  • Non-alcoholic drinks

You cannot buy beer, liquor, or wine with your SNAP benefits. You also cannot buy:

  • Vitamins or supplements
  • Food that is hot at the store
  • Medicine
  • Any non-food items

If you are not sure if an item can be paid for with SNAP benefits, you can use the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Ask USDA website to search for your question, or chat with an agent.

How to Check Your Eligibility for SNAP Benefits

To be eligible for SNAP, you must apply in the state you live in. You’ll also need to meet both net and gross income limits. Gross income is your household’s total income in a month. Net income is what your household earns after taxes and other deductions. To learn more about income limits, visit your state’s SNAP agency websiteSpecial eligibility rules exist for the disabled and elderly. If you receive other benefits, like Medicaid or WIC, you may automatically be eligible in your state for SNAP. You can find more information on the SNAP eligibility website.

How to Apply for SNAP Benefits

To apply for SNAP, you’ll need to contact your local SNAP office. You can search for your state SNAP information on or find your state on the SNAP state directory. Some states have online applications that can be filled out on the state agency website, but for other states you may have to visit your local office in person.

How to Use Your SNAP Benefits

If you are approved for SNAP benefits, you will receive your benefits on an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card. EBT is the only way to receive your SNAP benefits. Benefits are loaded automatically onto your EBT card each month, and you can use your EBT card like a debit card at stores. You can learn more about how to use your EBT card on the USDA EBT website. Your state agency will let you know how long you are approved to receive benefits for.

Learn More

For more resources on food and nutrition, browse the Food and Nutrition category of benefits. You can also find other government benefits you may be eligible to receive by taking the Benefit Finder. It is an easy-to-use questionnaire that takes about 10-30 minutes. When you fill out the questionnaire, you will answer questions about yourself, and it will give you a list of government benefits you may be eligible for. Once you get your benefit results, you will be directed to apply on the agency website. Check out this video to learn more about the Benefit Finder Questionnaire.