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Food assistance: Nutrition assistance programs explained

Americans throughout the country often have nutritional needs that cannot be met with their finances alone. There are programs that offer things food stamps, or SNAP benefits, and other food assistance.

grocery aisle filled with items eligible for food stamp snap benefits and other food assistance programs

The programs are at federal, state, and local levels.

These programs are usually geared toward low income families who would otherwise not be able to afford their meals.

Programs available to provide food stamps and nutritional assistance

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

SNAP, which was once called food stamps, provides funding to low income families in need of food.

The benefits are loaded onto a prepaid electronic card that works similarly to a debit card. It’s called an EBT card.

You can use the card at any participating grocery or convenience store.

In order to be eligible for food stamps, you need to be an individual or a member of a household below a certain income.

Everyone who resides and prepares food together has to have their income combined to see if they qualify.

You do not need a permanent address to receive food stamps.

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Applying for food stamp SNAP benefits

You can pick up an application at any Social Security office, and if you’re receiving SSI they will help you fill it out and send it to your local SNAP office.

You may contact SNAP by calling 10800-221-5689.

Women, Infants and Children (WIC)

The WIC program is run through grants from the federal government.

This benefits women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have young children in need to nutritional assistance.

Requirements involve income eligibility and state residency.

Women and their children need to be deemed to be at nutritional risk by a medical professional.


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This can normally be done by a nurse or professional through a WIC clinic.

Women are then given coupons, or checks, that allow them to purchase specific foods like milk, bread, cheese, cereal, formula, and other foods.

Along with WIC is WIC Farmer’s Market Nutritional Program which allows women to purchase produce and other goods at farmer’s markets or roadside stands.

Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP)

This program is for elderly people over the age of 60 with a low income who need their diets supplemented.

This program works to distribute food themselves and offer nutritional education to those who need the services.

The program is run through FNS, an agency within the USDA.


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Other food stamp and food assistance programs

Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)

This program reimburses daycares that provide food to children or disabled adults in day care settings.

National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP)

This program provides low income households with children who attend school one free or reduced meal for each meal time of the day.


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Summer Food Service Program (SFSP)

This program provides kids with snacks and meals during summer when school is not in session.

Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP)

This program gives awards to states and Tribal governments to provide low income seniors with coupons.

These coupons can be used for produce at local farmer’s markets and road stands.

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