Food Stamp Requirements

Food Stamp RequirementsSince 1939, the food stamps program has been providing low income households with the food they need to survive. But in order to qualify for the food stamps program (now called SNAP), there are five standards that families and individuals must pass.

Evaluation of Resources

Each household (or individual) is allowed $2,000 in what the Department of Agriculture calls “countable resources.” This includes money in the bank, but excludes things like real estate holdings and vehicles, Social Security benefits, welfare money, and usually retirement funds. The specific rules vary from state to state, especially when it comes to valuing cars, trucks, and motor homes. The vast majority of states exempt them entirely from the “countable resources” tally, while others will exempt some vehicles but not others. The rules also vary if there is a person over sixty in the household.


Income is probably the most significant factor when deciding whether or not a family qualifies for food stamp benefits. Each household must reveal their gross and net monthly income, as both are used to determine whether or not the family qualifies as “impoverished.” In most states, social security and welfare benefits are considered income and will affect the family’s entrance into the food stamps program. For a household of one gross income must be under $1,211 and net below $931. As the number of family members rises, so does the allowable income. There are plenty of deductions, however, including medical expenses for the elderly and child care.


In order to be accepted into the food stamps program, all participants between sixteen and sixty must either enroll in a work-study or training program, or register for employment assistance and take one of the jobs offered to them. If this requirement is not met, those wishing to enroll in the program can only receive food stamps three months every three years. Losing your job can also result in a loss of food stamps.

Elderly and Disabled Household Members

An elderly person is qualified as someone over the age of sixty, and a disabled person is generally qualified by whether or not they receive disability benefits from the state. Again, each state varies slightly on the special rules for elderly and disabled family members.

Immigrant Requirements

Those who have immigrated legally to America can apply and qualify for food stamps after living in the country for five years, sooner if they receive disability benefits or have children under the age of eighteen.

What Constitutes a Household?

The simplest answer is that everyone living under one roof (or at least “together”), who eats the same food (for the purposes of the stamps) is a household. Even if the individual members purchase and eat their food separately, if they all live together and generally draw from the same pool of money.

In certain situations, some people living in group homes or in shelters by themselves can qualify for the food stamps program, even if the home or shelter makes and provides their meals.