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What are Food Stamps?

Diana Bocco
Updated May 17, 2024
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The Food Stamp Program is a program created by the US federal government to provide food to people with low income. Food stamps have been in use since 1939, and they were created by former Secretary of Agriculture Henry Wallace. At the beginning, they were used to allow people to buy farm surpluses that otherwise were going to waste. The program lasted until 1943, when surplus were not longer a problem. After that, a different food program was created.

Food stamps are distributed in two basic forms: as vouchers in a booklet or as Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards. Both can be used at most supermarkets and food shops, and even to buy some prepared foods such as cold sandwiches, as long as they're eaten as take-out and not restaurant-style. They can also be used to buy seeds to start a vegetable garden, Nutritional supplements and most types of baby formula can also be purchased with them. For disabled people who cannot cook, food stamps can also be used to buy food from delivery services catering to the poor and disabled. They cannot be used to buy household products such as cleaning supplies, toothpaste, or soap.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, about 55% of the households who use food stamps include children, and only 9% are for people over age 60. Most of the people who receive them are white (41%), with the small percentage being Native Americans (2%). While anyone can apply, benefits are limited to people who are either U.S. citizens or legal residents.

To qualify for food stamps, all people over the age of 18 must register to work and be willing to participate on a work/study training program. For people who are currently working, it is still possible in to apply if their income is under a certain amount each month per person; a household with children living in it can be earning slightly more. Both income and expenses are taken into consideration when deciding if a family qualifies for the program.

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Diana Bocco
By Diana Bocco
Diana Bocco, a versatile writer with a distinct voice, creates compelling long-form and short-form content for various businesses. With a data-focused approach and a talent for sharing engaging stories, Diana’s written work gets noticed and drives results.
Discussion Comments
By anon991352 — On Jun 14, 2015

If I leave my parents house to seek for greener pastures in another country which is America and I apply for food stamps, is it legal to apply for it? Will my parents get arrested for that because if they will, I don't want to do it.

By anon317383 — On Feb 01, 2013

@anon275190: Yes, it is a good idea to ask for assistance if you need it. For example, when I had my first child, I was making around $10,000/year and supporting my boyfriend also. I have always been an advocate for doing things yourself, but sometimes it's just not possible. The good thing about food stamps is that if, in two months, you're on your feet and living all right, you can elect to discontinue them, keeping in mind that when things get rough again, you can reapply.

One thing I have noticed about Americans: no matter where or what they come from, is they tend to be proud people who don't like to ask for help. My husband has recently had a bit of an issue at work where he asked for a bit of assistance and his coworkers all think he's a weakling now and cannot handle his job. That's not true, but it's the American philosophy. I have not heard of anywhere else in the world where this sort of stupidity happens. If you cannot do something or you are unsure how to get something done, ask for help! It won't kill you!

@anon249553: Just out of curiosity, how old are you? If you are younger than 18, you can go to any local SRS or Health Department and ask for assistance from them. If you're 18 or older, then you can still go to them for assistance. There are numerous options for housing, food assistance, and cash assistance.

I will warn you though, that I do not know what will happen to you if you're under 18 and go to those authorities. I have never been in that position or known anyone in that position, but I know there are actually a few good people out there with good hearts who really just want to help those who need it. Good luck. My thoughts are with you!

By anon275190 — On Jun 16, 2012

Are food stamps a good thing to apply for even though you need them.

By anon249553 — On Feb 21, 2012

What if your parent kicked you out and now you live with you aunt and 15 other people? But you have no choice but to stay there because you have nowhere else to go?

Can they help you with housing and get you somewhere to stay, especially if your aunt says that you can't stay at her house long. Because when everybody else leaves you have to leave too? But you don't know when everybody is leaving, and every day you come home scared and wondering if you still have a place to live. But you want to do right and you want to go to school and do everything that you're supposed to do.

What do you do then? Can you help me please? I really need help. With 15 other people living in the house, I go to school hungry, and I have to force myself to eat school lunch because it's nasty. I don't have a job so I don't have any money to buy me anything to eat.

By anon225657 — On Oct 28, 2011

A man just lost his wife and the wife was the person providing for the family before she died. He has three children and is jobless. He wants to apply for the public assistance program, but will he be eligible for it and what are the requirement?

By anon123233 — On Oct 31, 2010

if you receive a settlement from workers comp does it count with your income that you are making now?

By alex94 — On Aug 02, 2010

@christym: You can go to your local health department and pick up an application. Once you complete your application and turn it in, you will receive a date for an appointment.

You are usually asked to bring documentation of bank accounts, utility bills, and medical costs and/or information. You will watch a video regarding the do's and don't's of food stamps.

You will also meet with your designated caseworker and determine your need and eligibility. If your caseworker considers your specific need as emergent, your benefits can be expedited.

By christym — On Aug 02, 2010

Does anyone have information on how to apply for food stamps?

Diana Bocco
Diana Bocco
Diana Bocco, a versatile writer with a distinct voice, creates compelling long-form and short-form content for various...
Learn more
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