Understanding SNAP

September 27, 2021 / 5 mins read

What is SNAP?

SNAP stands for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. SNAP is a federal program that helps millions of Americans with low-income put food on the table. Across the United States there are 9.5 million families with children on SNAP. It is the largest program working to fight hunger in America.

When we hit tough times most of us are lucky enough to have parents, siblings, friends and neighbors who can help us through. For some, that support doesn't exist, so as a nation we have created a way to ensure no one in America has to be severely hungry and undernourished. SNAP, in conjunction with food banks, community groups, churches and volunteer organizations, collectively helps strengthen communities by providing the fuel and nutrition people need.

Why is SNAP important?

SNAP provides families with their basic nutritional needs to get them through temporary hard times. It helps people get back on their feet and on the road to a better life — in 2015, SNAP lifted 4.6 million Americans above the poverty line, including 2 million children and 366,000 seniors. Moreover, SNAP helps to ensure that children are given a fair chance at healthy adulthood, that seniors age with dignity and that family can care for themselves. SNAP is absolutely critical to making sure no one in America goes hungry.

On top of that, SNAP supports America’s economy and creates jobs. Research from Moody’s Analytics suggests that for every dollar spent by SNAP, 1.7 dollars are added to the economy. A 2010 study by the USDA found that for every $1 billion of added SNAP funding, between 8,900 and 17,000 jobs were created. By contrast, another study found that for every $1 billion in cuts, 11,437 jobs would be destroyed.

How does SNAP work?

SNAP provides timely, targeted, and temporary benefits to people in need so that Americans have access to nutritious food. SNAP responds quickly to changes in our population, growing in response to increases in poverty and unemployment, and shrinking as the need is met and reduced. SNAP is administered by the states, which have considerable discretion to adapt the program to best meet the needs of their residents.

Who is eligible to receive SNAP benefits?

SNAP is targeted toward our most at-risk citizens, predominantly serving households with children, elderly or disabled members. Nearly half of all SNAP participants are children.

Federal eligibility for SNAP is limited to people with gross incomes up to 130% of the federal poverty line — meaning a family of four can make no more than $2,633 a month to receive benefits. Able-bodied adults without dependents can only receive three months of benefits during any three-year period if they’re not working a minimum of 20 hours per week or participating in a training program.

What are SNAP benefits?

SNAP benefits are delivered monthly through electronic debit (EBT) cards, which they are used to purchase groceries at one of the more than 238,000 authorized retailers nationwide.

What kinds of groceries can be purchased with SNAP?

Households can use SNAP to buy nutritious foods such as breads and cereals, fruits and vegetables, meat and fish and dairy products. SNAP benefits cannot be used to buy any kind of alcohol or tobacco products or any nonfood items like household supplies and vitamins and medicines.

How do I apply for SNAP?

To apply for SNAP benefits, you can contact your local SNAP office. You can also call our Food Assistance & Referral Specialist, Diane Grimes at (540)371-7666 x146 or email her at dgrimes@fredfood.org.

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