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Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP: formerly "Food stamps")  is a national program that you apply for locally under the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

In most states, you can apply on line. However, it is recommended that you apply in person so that you have a person who can answer your questions and help guide you in answering questions in the manner most likely to get you approved while still being accurate in  your answers.

To find your local office and the application in use in your state, go to offsite link. You can also find the local office by calling 800.221.5689, press 2.

When you go to the local office, take the papers you'll need to establish eligibility with you. In addition to national requirements, your local office may require additional documentation so it is advisable to check before going to a local office.

If you need food assistance immediately, ask for Expedited Service.

SIGN THE APPLICATION (and get a written receipt) ON YOUR FIRST VISIT! You do not have to have all the information or all the documents with you on your first visit. You don't even need to have your formal interview the first day. The important thing is to get the process started. The date you submit your application triggers a time limit by which you must receive a determination about your application.

If you want to apply on line, click here to find out whether your state permits online filing, and if so, how to do it.

For more information, see:

Where to Apply For Supplemental Nutrition Assistance

To find the office of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in your state, click here offsite link

You can also apply for nutrition assistance at your local Welfare office (Department or Public Social Services or Social Services Division), the county office that handles Medicaid and General Relief.

Alternatively, there are many ways to locate your local nutrition assistance office. For instance:

  • Look in your telephone directory under "County or Federal Government." Look for: "Nutrition Assistance", "Food Stamps", "Social Services", "Human Services", "Public Assistance", or a similar title.
  • Call your county government office, local town clerk, city or county health department or welfare department and ask for the address and phone number of your Supplemental Nutrition Assistance or  Food Stamp Office.
  • Call the "Welfare Benefits" office. This office often administers supplemental nutrition assistance programs.
  • Ask your food retailer if he or she can help you find the address.
  • You may also obtain an application for the Supplemental Nutrition Assitance Program at your local Social Security office.
    • If you are applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for your entire household, the Social Security office will also accept the application for supplental nutrition assistance.
    • If you are not applying for SSI, you may pick up an application at Social Security, but you'll have to go to your local county welfare office to submit it.
    • NOTE: California and Wisconsin include a food allowance in their monthly SSI/SSP check so SNAP nutritional assistance under is NOT available to SSI recipients in those two states.

To Learn More

What To Take With You When You Apply For Nutrition Assistance

NOTE: People who are so ill that they may need someone else to shop for them can register that person with the welfare office when they first apply or later.

Although the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is a National program, the application process may be different in each state. That's why it's always good to go to the office if your calculations are close or if there is any doubt about whether you qualify.

Documentation you will need when applying for supplemental nutrition assistance include:

  • Proof of citizenship: You MUST have an acceptable form of ID when you apply in order to prove that you are a citizen of the United States. To prove citizenship, take your birth certificate, driver's license, work or school ID, or voter registration card.
  • Legal Aliens: If you are a legal alien, you may be entitled to benefits. If so, you will need proof of your status.
  • Proof of income and check stubs from earned AND unearned income: Take bank books, pay stubs, payroll check receipts, copies of checks or benefit statements from your Social Security, pension, SSI or any other earned or unearned income. NEVER LIE OR WITHHOLD INFORMATION FROM THE SUPPLEMENTAL NUTITRITION ASSISTANCE OFFICE. The information you give is checked against other government records. You could lose your benefits for a long time if you give false information.
  • Proof that you have a job (unless you are in a special category): Proof may consist of paycheck stubs, correspondence from your employer or other documents that show you are currently employed.
  • Social Security numbers for everyone in your household: You will need Social Security numbers for every member of your household, including children, even if they are toddlers or infants. Since children probably do not have numbers, you can apply for Supplemental Nutrition Assistnace anyhow and ask the office worker to help you get numbers.

Since enrollment procedures may vary slightly from state to state, when you call to make an appointment to apply, ask the local office what documentation you need to bring. In addition to the documentation listed above, some offices will also want to see rent or mortgage payment records, deeds and/or leases, utility bills, child- or elder- care bills, and proof of child support (court order and check stubs), marriage license and/or divorce papers.

If You Need Help Immediately: "Expedited Service"

Under a procedure called "Expedited Service," if you are eligible, the application process must be speeded up to give you access to food as soon as possible -- within three to seven days, depending on the state in which you live.

Eligibility: You are eligible for Expedited Service if you are otherwise eligible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance and at least one of the following apply to you:

  • You have no place to live or you reside in temporary housing, OR
  • You have no more than $100 in liquid resources AND less than $150 income BEFORE deductions, OR
  • Your rent or mortgage and utility costs are more than your liquid resources AND this month's income BEFORE deductions, OR
  • You have no more than $100 liquid resources and at least one member of your household who is a migrant or seasonal worker. A migrant farm worker moves from one place to another to work in agriculture. A seasonal farm worker works for only part of the year in farm work, but lives in the same place all the time.

If you qualify for Expedited Service:

  • Take whatever written proof you have that shows you to qualify under one of the above conditions.
  • Tell the interviewer when you first meet with him or her.

If you cannot get any immediate help from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Office: file the paperwork anyway. Meanwhile, look for a feeding center like a soup kitchen, food pantry, food bank, mission, conglomerate meal feeding organization or other emergency supplier of food.  Contact the emergency food office of the local county government or any church or synagogue or civic organization for the names and locations.