How to Get Enough Food Stamps to Actually Eat

il_570xN.598696152_t9kz.jpgAnyone can apply for food stamps any time by contacting their local snap office.

This sounds really great, but as you have may already figured out, it does not always work out really great.

Many people get turned down for food stamps, or get an amount of food stamps that is too small to feed their families. This often happens when people do not know or understand all the food stamps regulations.

Lucky you… You are about to learn all the food stamps regulations, so this won’t happen to you.

Work Rules

If you are not working because of your illness, they will cut off your food stamps! Fortunately, there is a simple solution:

🍎 If you are already on Social Security disability, just tell them. They should be able to see this in their system.

🍎 If you are not on disability, the food stamps caseworker can give you a simple form for your doctor to sign confirming that you cannot work. (Side note: If you are genuinely too sick to work, but your doctor won’t sign this form, that is a huge red flag. If you are applying for disability or considering applying, now is the time to consider getting a new doctor. Run, don’t walk.)

Rent Rules

Your rent or mortgage has a significant impact on your food stamps. The higher your housing costs are, the higher your food stamps are. This is how the rent rules work:

🍎 Jim Pays For Stuff – Jim lives in his mom’s basement. He does not pay rent. Instead he pays for the phone bill, internet, repairs to the home, appliances, food, and car insurance. Jim applies for food stamps and qualifies for $0 per month

🍎 Jim Pays for Rent – Jim lives in his mom’s basement and pays rent to his mom each month by check. Jim applies for food stamps and qualifies for $100 per month.

Farmer’s Markets

Many farmers markets will give you extra free food if you use food stamps. This is available in many states. Here are some examples of programs that do this: Michigan, New York, New Mexico, and many other places. Here’s where you can find a farmer’s market near you.

Rules for Disability & Seniors

This are special rules for people with disabilities. These rules apply to seniors (over age 59) and to people with disabilities (any age). To qualify, you must be receiving some kind of disability from the state or federal government. There are three special rules:

🍎 The first one is high rent. As mentioned above, if your rent is high, your food stamps may be high. This is true for everyone, but it extra true for people on disability and seniors because there is no cap on rent.

🍎 The second rule is assets. This rule won’t be a big help to most people, but here it is: If you are on disability you are allowed to have slightly more assets (around $1,000 more and still qualify for food stamps). If you were turned down for food stamps because you had too much money or owned to much stuff, this could help.

🍎 The third rule is high medical expenses. If your medical expenses are more than $35 per month, there are special regulations that will increase food stamps for anyone who is poor and disabled.

What counts as a medical expense?

  • Co-pays and deductibles on doctor’s visits
  • Prescription medications
  • Medical equipment
  • Medical transportation
  • Over-the-counter medication if recommended by a physician or licensed provider
  • Other treatments if recommended by a physician or licensed provider
  • Pet food and veterinary care for a trained service animal

Tips for Applying with Disabilities

Please ask your caseworker if they have applied the disabled rules for rent and medical expenses when calculating your case. Sometimes they do not apply these rules unless you ask for it! Your food stamps may go WAY up when they do this. These regulations are described above. You do not need to read the policy manual, but if you want to, it is here.

Make sure to send in receipts for your medical expenses. Your caseworker probably won’t ask you to do this, you just have to decide to do it. If you are buying supplements or herbs or other any kind of other treatments, send in a copy of your medical records including these items. If they are listed in your medical records SNAP will accept them as “recommended by a physician or licensed provider.”

If you are already on Food Stamps, you can ask to have your amount of food stamps reassessed at any time. Contact your caseworker.

It is very possible that your caseworker will not know all the rules on this page or will not remember to apply them. Always double check. Make your requests in writing. Call and confirm which rules have been applied to your case. Always talk to your caseworker, never talk to the person who answers the phone at the agency. Request a copy of your file if needed. If you don’t think your amount is correct, always appeal.

Household Rules

Food stamps has a special way of defining a “household”. A household is:

🍎 Your spouse if you live together

🍎  Your children under the age of 22 if you live together

🍎 The other parent of your children if you live together

🍎 Anyone else you live with AND share food with

That’s it! If you live with other people but do not share food, they are not part of your food stamps household. You read that right: You can live in the same house and be a different household.

According to the regulations, someone is not part of your household if they purchase, store, and prepare food separately. If this is your situation, food stamps regulations state that they will NOT consider the income of the people you live with.

Example: Don, Jane & Jim

🍎 Don, Jane, and Jim live together. They all apply for food stamps together. They get $10 per month.

🍎  Don, Jane, and Jim live together. Their food is all purchased, prepared and stored separately. They each apply for food stamps separately. Don qualifies for $190 per month in food stamps. Jane qualifies for $25 per month in food stamps. Jim does not qualify for food stamps.

Example: Suzy Lives with Her Mom

🍎 Suzy is an adult and lives with her mom and eats meals together. Suzy applies for food stamps and qualifies for $0 per month.

🍎 Suzy lives with her mom. Suzy and her mom keep all their food separate. Suzy pays for her own food but she is disabled and cannot go to the store. She gives her money or food stamps card to her mom and her mom shops for her. Suzy applies for food stamps. The food stamps caseworker notifies Suzy that she qualifies for $150 per month.

Example: Julie and Family

🍎 Julie lives with her husband, her two young children, and her mother. They share meals. Julie applies for food stamps. She qualifies for $0 per month.

🍎 Julie lives with her husband, their two young children, and her mother. Julie, her husband and kids buy their own food and use one half of the fridge. Mom buys her own food and uses the other half of the fridge. At the food stamps interview, Julie explains the situation. The food stamps caseworker says that Julie, her husband and her kids are one household. Together they qualify for $300 per month.

Tips for Applying as a Separate Household

If you live in a house with other people who you do not share food with, it’s very confusing to fill out the application, because they ask you to list everyone you live with and then ask for all their info. If you are trying to apply as an independent household, what do you write here?

🍎 Tip # 1. Be Honest – Always tell the truth about who you are living with. Never lie or try to hide the fact that you live with other people.

🍎 Tip #2. Don’t give them the opportunity to get it wrong – Food stamps caseworkers have a lot to do and it is easy to get things wrong. The more information you write on your food stamps form, the more opportunities there are for things to get messed up. Here’s a few strategies:

Example: Mary Applies Three Ways

🍎 Mary Applies Online – Mary rents a room in her friend’s house. Mary applies for food stamps. On the online form it says: list everyone you live with. Mary lists her friend’s name, social security and income. Then the form says: tell us all the bank accounts for everyone you live with. Mary lists her friend’s bank accounts. The caseworker incorrectly adds all of the friend’s info onto Mary’s account. Mary gets denied food stamps. Mary appeals her case and writes on the appeal form that her friend does not share food with her and is not part of her food stamps household. Mary is approved and gets $75 in food stamps.

🍎 Mary Applies on Paper – Mary rents a room in her friend’s house. Mary applies for food stamps. She gets a paper copy of the form. On the form it says: list everyone you live with. Mary does not list her friend’s name or financial information, instead she writes “see attached” and she attachés a note reading “I rent a room in a friend’s house. All of my food is bought, stored and prepared separately from my friend.” Mary gets $75 in food stamps!

🍎 Mary Applies in Person – Mary rents a room in her friend’s house. Mary applies for food stamps. She makes an appointment to apply in person. The caseworker asks Mary for the names, social security numbers and income of everyone she lives with. Mary says “I do not have this information. I rent a room in a house, but all of my food is kept separate. They are not part of my food stamps household.” Once again, Mary gets $75 in food stamps!

Asset Rules

If you were turned down for food stamps because you had too many assets, and you now have less assets, you can apply again any time. You are allowed to receive food stamps if your “household” has less than $2,250. (Or $3,250 if at least one person is disabled or a senior). See above to understand what a household is.

All money in the bank counts. Retirement plans sometimes count. A house does not count. In some states no cars count, in some states one car does not count, in some states, one car does not count if it is worth less than $5,000. You are allowed to spend money, but you are not allowed to give it away.

This example is going to look rather crazy, but I don’t make the rules. This is how it works:

🍎 Jack has money – Jack has $4,000 in the bank. He gets $0 in food stamps.

🍎 Jack has a house – Jack owns a $250,000 house. He spent all his savings and paid off the mortgage. Jack gets $100 in food stamps.

Other Options

Many areas have food banks that offer free groceries. National food bank directory.

🍎 Meals on Wheels and home meal programs offer free or low cost meals in many areas. Some programs are restricted to seniors, but others will serve anyone who is homebound or has difficulty leaving their home. Contact your local area agency on aging and they can hook you up.

🍎 Many areas have other food programs available at churches or nonprofits. Try dialing 2-1-1 on your phone to see what is available in your area.

🍎 Food stamps are not your only option. There are many other discounts and programs froto help people with disabilities: How to Be Poor in America

Updated March 2017 by Lily Silver 🍎

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