How Do I Apply for Food Stamps?

Melissa Barrett

To apply for food stamps, one must get and complete an application. These applications are most frequently accessible through public assistance offices but may be offered at social security offices and charitable organizations. Usually, an applicant needs to attend a face-to-face meeting with a case manager to complete the application process.

Food stamps allow low-income people to purchase food.
Food stamps allow low-income people to purchase food.

Traditional paper applications are almost always available at local public assistance offices. Names for these offices can vary with region, but they are often listed in the government section of telephone directories. Generally, it is advised to call the agency to determine whether an appointment is needed to apply for food stamps. In some circumstances, the application can be mailed to the applying individual or even completed online.

Social Security cards are used to prove citizenship when applying for food stamps.
Social Security cards are used to prove citizenship when applying for food stamps.

The paperwork used to apply for food stamps can be lengthy. An applicant will be asked his or her name, phone number, address, birthday, and social security number. This information will also be required for every member of his or her household. Commonly, household income data for the previous three to six months will be needed as well as any predicted changes in future income. The applicant is also usually required to provide a list of assets, including but not limited to bank accounts, vehicles, real property, and retirement accounts.

As the living costs of those who apply for food stamps are also considered monthly expenses, they are usually examined in great detail. Housing payments and utility cost figures are commonly requested on the food stamp application. Child care and education costs and medical costs for the entire household may be asked for as well. Providing this information can increase the amount of food stamps for which a family qualifies. In addition, this information can help case workers identify other programs that might benefit the applicant.

On completion and return of the application, those who apply for food stamps need to provide several records to their assigned caseworker. Usually, two or more documents proving citizenship are required for each member of the applying family. Some acceptable documents are a driver's license, birth certificate or resident alien card, social security card, or government-issued identification card. These documents also serve to provide proof of identity.

To apply for food stamps, one will also need to provide proof of income and expenditures for housing and utilities. Generally, pay stubs are sufficient to prove income, but additional records, such as award letters or bank statements, may be necessary for nontraditional income sources. Housing expenditures can be proven with receipts, leases, or mortgage agreements. Likewise, receipts or bills can verify utility payments. Receipts for child care and medical bills may also be needed.

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