What is SNAP? – Understanding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

What Is SNAP Hydroponics?
What Is SNAP Hydroponics?

One of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) objectives is to decrease food insecurity and reduce hunger by improving access to food, a healthful diet, and nutrition education for low-income Americans.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is one of the numerous nutrition assistance programs by the USDA.

SNAP is also known as the food stamp program. It’s a program that provides monthly benefits to low-income individuals and families to purchase food.

According to feeding America, 9.5 million families and children in the United States use SNAP to buy food.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is one of the most effective programs administered by the United States Department of Agriculture.

It’s the country’s third-largest social welfare program and the most extensive program working to fight hunger in America. In this article, we’ll look at what SNAP is all about.

Short History of Food Stamps

Supplemental nutrition assistance programs date back to the Great Depression when the government first began providing food to struggling people.

It was called “relief” at the time, and that’s still how it’s referred to today. The programs have evolved since then, but their original purpose has stayed the same: to help families who need extra help with food or housing.

Farmers grew excess produce during the Great Depression, but the unemployed and people affected by the recession could not afford it.

The introduction of food stamps was to help the poor, boost the economy, and compensate farmers fairly for their labor.

Food stamps were designed to create a political agreement between the federal government and agriculture by distributing excess goods during a crisis.

The first program, known as the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), went into effect in 1933 and was designed to provide free meals to working families who couldn’t afford healthy meals.

In 1935, another program was created called The National School Lunch Program (NSLP), which provides free lunches at public schools for all students in America.

The name was changed from Food Stamp Program to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in October 2008.

All references to “stamp” or “coupon” in federal law were replaced with “card” or “EBT.

The name was changed to emphasize the importance of providing nutrition and also to reduce the use of the stigmatized term “food stamps.”

What is SNAP?

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the federal government program that provides food assistance to low-income individuals and families.

The program helps them buy food for good health and better nutrition. It is one of the most extensive nutrition assistance programs in the United States, serving more than 46 million low-income Americans each year. 

SNAP benefits can be used at supermarkets, grocery stores, and local food pantries.

SNAP also offers financial support and nutrition education programs to reduce hunger and promote healthy eating habits among low-income households through school lunch programs for children and home-delivered meals for seniors under the age of 60 with limited cooking ability or financial resources.

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Benefits of SNAP

1) The most crucial goal of SNAP is to alleviate hunger and malnutrition by increasing resources for purchasing food for a nutritious diet.

2) SNAP helps people who are struggling to afford the necessities of life, those living below 185 per cent of the federal poverty level.

3) It allows many people to stretch their budgets because the money they would use on food can go towards other needs like medical bills, utilities, and rent.

4) SNAP benefits are distributed as an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card, which can be used in stores that accept EBT cards.

5) The EBT card has a magnetic strip with a unique number printed, allowing the redemption of SNAP benefits at the checkout counter.

6) Eligible households can use the card to buy food at over 254,000 retailers authorized to participate in the program.

SNAP cannot be used to buy vitamin supplements, cigarettes, alcoholic beverages, household supplies, or hot foods.

SNAP benefits help pay for the following:

1) Food, up to a maximum of three meals per day for adults and four meals per day for children under 18

2) Supplies for cooking, such as nonperishable foods, canned goods, and cereal

3) For some households, additional help paying for housing costs or rent

4) The food program also provides financial support to families by paying a small monthly cash benefit that can be used to buy food directly from retailers or farmers’ markets.

Eligibility Requirement for Food Stamps

Households must meet certain conditions and requirements to receive food stamps benefits. According to USDA, a household is defined as anyone who lives and prepares food together.

A homeless person who does not have an address or a place to cook meals can still receive SNAP benefits.

A homeless person does not have a fixed nighttime or primary residence. A primary residence is a temporary accommodation in a supervised shelter, the home of another person, or a place not meant for sleeping, such as a hallway, bus station, or lobby,

SNAP is for everyone, including families, seniors, people working or not, people with disabilities, and veterans or active military personnel with incomes less than 130 per cent of the federal poverty level (about $28,000).

Income Requirements

1) Most households must meet gross and net income limits to qualify for the food program.

2) Gross income is the total earnings before taxes or other deductions, and the net income is the amount remaining after deductions are taken from your gross income.

3) A household with an older or disabled person needs only to meet the net income test.

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4) If everyone in the household has Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the household is considered income-eligible (TANF).

5) Income limits differ by household size and are subject to change each year.

Resource Requirements

1) Households must also meet the resource limit.

Resources are things you own (such as stocks, certificates of deposit (CDs), cash, or money in a bank account).

2) Currently, households may have $2,750 in resources or $3,500 if at least one household member is 60 or older or is disabled.

Some things are not seen as a resource. Your home and lot, For example, are not seen as resources.

3) In addition, you may own at least one car in some states. People who receive SSI or TANF resources are not counted as well.

Work Requirements

Suppose you are a non-disabled adult without dependents (ABAWD) between 18 and 49 who can work but is currently unemployed, you may qualify for SNAP benefits for up to three months in three years. This is called the “time limit.”

1) To qualify for SNAP after the time limit, an ABAWD must work or participate in a training activity for at least 20 hours per week.

2) The time limit does not involve people who cannot work due to physical or mental health issues, are pregnant, care for a child or disabled family member, or are exempt from the general work requirements. This requirement is waived in some areas.

3) If you are unemployed, you may be required by the state to partake in a particular employment or training program.

Other Eligibility Requirements

1) Enumeration: Each household member must have, or have applied for, a social security number before certification.

2) Citizenship: A lawfully present noncitizen might be eligible for SNAP benefits if they meet the income and resource limits.

3) Even so, the majority of eligible noncitizens must wait five years before receiving SNAP benefits.

4) Certain noncitizens, such as lawfully present children under the age of 18, people with disabilities, refugees, and asylees, are exempt from the five-year waiting period.

5) If you are lawfully present and have a sufficient work history or a military connection, you may also be eligible for benefits.

6) If your children are legally present or citizens of the United States, they may be eligible for SNAP benefits even if you are not. You can apply for your children without disclosing your immigration status.

SNAP Application Process

1) Fill out a state application form to apply for these benefits. This form can be completed online, mailed, or dropped off at a DSS Regional Office near you.

It is very important to note that every U.S state has a dedicated application portal for food benefits, so check the directory of the U.S Department of Agriculture and select the state that is applicable to you

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2) An eligibility worker will interview you to proceed with the application process after you have completed the form.

3) You are entitled to a duplicate of the completed application, and DSS can also provide you with a copy at any time in either paper format or electronic.

4) If you can’t get to a DSS office, you can request that your application interview be conducted by mail and phone or apply online. Someone else can also do the application paperwork for you.

5) Depending on your circumstances, there will be some specific documents you will need when applying, including:

  • Proof of identity, such as a photo ID or Social Security card; Proof of address;
  •  Documentation showing the type and quantity of your household’s assets;
  • Proof of citizenship or eligible immigration status;
  • Your latest Tax Return if you qualify for SNAP based on your household net income;
  • Recent verification documents from anyone you listed as a third-party reference on your application; 
  • Proof of marriage, even if you aren’t getting married until later this year, or proof of divorce from last year – whichever applies to you.

6) Once the application has been submitted, the Department of Transitional Assistance  (DTA) determines your eligibility within 30 days.

However, Some people may be eligible for “emergency” SNAP benefits within seven days of submitting their application.

7) If you qualify, you will receive a letter in the mail. If your application is approved,  DTA will notify you of your benefit amount and when you will receive it.

If your application is rejected, DTA will explain why. You can appeal the decision, and your letter will explain how to file an appeal.

In summation

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) helps to reduce hunger and malnutrition among low-income individuals and families.

The program also assists families in improving their nutrition and eating habits, as well as their general health.

Eligible households can access SNAP benefits through an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card used to purchase food from approved retailers.

You may qualify for a specific amount of money every month, depending on the state you stay in, and this will help you pay for groceries so that you can eat nutritious meals, not just fast food or cheap junk food. To receive these benefits, you must meet specific requirements as stated above.

References:

  1. U.S Department of Agriculture. “SNAP State Directory of Resources”. fns.usda.gov
  2. National Centre for Biotechnology Information. “History, Background, and Goals of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program”. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
  3. Feeding America. “What is SNAP and How to Apply”. feedingamerica.org
  4. Benefits Gov. “What is this program?”. benefits.gov

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