Government assistance program that began in the 1960s. Some 24 million poor and working class Americans rely on it each year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture subsidizes the distribution of low-cost food and food stamps to the poor through the state and local governments. Food stamp coupons are used like currency but can only be exchanged for food items. In the past a family had to have an income below 130 percent of the poverty line to be eligible. Welfare reforms in 1996 changed that rule and approximately 3.5 million people saw their benefits cut.

This write up is Americentric in nature. Anybody from other countries that have similar programs should feel free to chime in with their own specifics.

With the whole topic of government entitlements and government spending headlining the news each day, food stamps have naturally come under some scrutiny. I’m not here to argue for or against the program. Like most things in life, especially when it comes to matters of government programs, I’m sure it has its fair share of benefits and fair share of abuses. How you categorize them probably depends on which side of the aisle you’re sitting on.

That being said…

Back in the old days actual stamps were issued to people who qualified for the Food Stamp Program. The color of the stamp denoted its value. For example brown stamps were worth $1.00, blue stamps were worth $5.00 and green stamps were worth $10.00. With the growth of technology during the 90’s the stamps themselves were phased out and replaced with something similar to a debit card and the Food Stamp Program was subsequently renamed the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in October of 2008.

Many are called but few are chosen or more aptly “Who Qualifies for Food Stamps”

Well, anyone can apply but you have to meet certain income criteria in order to be accepted in the program. Certain factors are taken into consideration such as family size, citizenship and household income versus household expenses are the main determining factors on whether or not you’re eligible for the program.

For instance, if you live by yourself and are under the age of 60 and are not disabled and have no children under the age of 19 your gross income amount for the month must be equal to or less than $1,174.00 per month.

For each additional person living under your roof under the same circumstances add $405.00 to the monthly gross income amount in order to qualify.

Example: If 2 adults under age 60 live under the same roof then monthly gross income cannot exceed $1,579.00, 3 adults would be $1,984.00 and so on and so on.

As we know, children tend to complicate things and the SNAP program is no exception. If you have children under the age of 19 it becomes a whole new ball game.

If you live with one child under the age of 19 your gross income amount cannot exceed $1,805.00. That amount rises by S624.00 for each additional child under the age 19 that resides in your home.

Those are the “simple calculations”. It really gets complicated once you become a senior citizen or become disabled for any reason. If that’s the case, then your net assets are thrown into the mix. I’ll readily admit that I’m not smart enough to provide our gentle readers with those calculations but please refer to the source listed at the end of this write up for more information.

I also don’t know what kind of documentation you need to submit but if I had to hazard a guess it would be things like proof of citizenship, monthly bills and pay statements. A specially trained government official would then decide your fate.

How much can I get and who gets them?

According to the latest figures the average monthly benefit was approximately $133.12 per qualified individual.

Speaking from a personal point of view I found this next statistic quite shocking. According to our friends over at Wikipedia one in eight Americans is currently on the SNAP program as is one in four children. The program itself is growing at an astounding 20,000 people a day. I didn’t do the math but I think that equates to approximately 42 million people who are actively enrolled in the program.

What can I buy? What can’t I buy?

Just about anything that qualifies as food as long as it’s not being sold for consumption on the premises or is a hot food take out item. Here’s a short list of what you can get.

There’s been a recent dust up over the inclusion of so called junk food such as potato chips, soda, candy and ice cream as being eligible for the program. From a purely personal standpoint I think those might be considered “luxury items” and should probably not be allowed. See Reader Comments

The following items are considered taboo and cannot be purchased under any circumstances through the program.

  • Beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes or any other tobacco product
  • Pet food
  • Any kind of paper product such as paper towels, toilet paper, napkins, etc.
  • Any soap, deodorant, toothpaste or shampoo
  • Any household supplies such as detergents and cleansers are verboten.
  • Vitamins and medicine (that sounds a bit harsh to me, I’d put them in) See Reader Comments
  • Cosmetics
  • Any live animal

Basically it boils down to if you can’t eat it, it ain’t eligible.

That’s it in a nutshell my friends. Hopefully you found this informative as well as entertaining to read as I did to write.

Bon appetit!


Update January 4, 2013: Apparently I wasn't clear enough on what you can buy. It seems a woman tried buy an iPad at her local Walmart using food stamps and was quickly rebuffed. Apparently she did not read this w/u before trying to make her purchase, stupid bitch. The joke making the rounds is that she thought that since it was an Apple product that it would be ok. Listen, people, if you can't fuckin' eat it, you can't fuckin' buy it. I can't make it any clearer. That is all.

Readers Comments

Some readers have chimed in. For instance...

GhettoAardvark says re food stamps: Vitamins and medicine generally aren't allowed because they cost so much in comparison to food. Basically, the food stamp progam can't afford to let people buy vitamins and medicine on the program or they wouldn't be able to cover as many people as they do.

grundoon says re food stamps: Also, at least locally, it can be used for fruit, veg, and whatever else we are selling at the local farmer's market.

Jet-Poop says Good writeup. I'll say that I support the idea of letting people use food stamps to buy sodas, candy, ice cream, and other "treat" foods. I don't like the idea of essentially telling poor people, "No treats, luxuries, or fun. You're poor -- sit there and be miserable." And hopefully, people using food stamps would prioritize their purchases toward meal items anyway...

gwenllian says re food stamps: I'll reply to Jet-Poop's point by arguing that I work with a lot of people who are on the food stamp program, and that most of them do NOT make good nutrition choices. I feel the food stamp program should be more like WIC in stating which high-nutritional-value items can be bought. We have an obesity epidemic which is only being worsened because you can buy a 2-liter of pop for 79 cents on food stamps as opposed to a gallon of milk for $2.- or more. Most people have SOME disposable income they could use for 'treat' foods (and generally spend at McDonald's anyway). Our tax dollars should go towards healthy food for the kids who need it most, not towards the chips and soda mom and dad want. We have plenty of kids who go hungry because the grownups use the food stamp money irresponsibly.

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