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Foodstamps 101

Foodstamps 101

So I’ve seen more than a few posts lately from people who are in positions where food is scarce and so is money. And I’ve been in more than a few financially insecure situations myself, so I’m going to talk to you about poverty in America & making it work when you’re broke as hell in the United States. First off, apply for food stamps. Yes, even if you don’t have any children. If anyone tells you that only people with children, only people of color, only people of whatever background that is not yours, will qualify? Don’t believe it until you look up your local laws. Protip: Race is never a factor in qualifying for food stamps. It is down to income, and far more people qualify for assistance than realize it. So, apply. The worst that can happen is that you’re turned down.

Now, the actual process of applying for food stamps can be tough if you don’t have access to all the bits of proof that they may want. The most important paperwork is proof of identity & your bank statements if you have an account. Most states have applications available online. Fill it out & if you can print it? Do so & take it into the office with you along with your proof of identity, residence, & income. If you are missing any of the above paperwork, that is okay. If you need a copy of your birth certificate or social security card & you cannot afford the fee there are usually ways around that requirement, even if you have to talk to a supervisor to get it done. Also, there are alternative methods of proving identity, income (or lack thereof), & the caseworker will discuss those with you. If you are homeless/couch surfing? Tell them that. Ask for an emergency food stamp interview. When you are being interviewed, let the caseworker lead the way. They know what they need from you & they will tell you what paperwork you need to bring in.

Go into the office early. Whatever time they open? That’s when you should be there because that increases your chances of being seen by a person in a position to help you. If you get there early enough & you have birth certificates, social security cards, leases etc. on hand? There is a good chance they will interview you that day. It can take up to 30 days for a decision to be made, but in my experience it’s usually more like a week if you have proof of identity with you. Also? You do not have to be a citizen to qualify for benefits. The rules have changed & changed again so here’s a handy guide. Minors are always eligible regardless of immigration status. If for some reason you don’t qualify for federal assistance, you should check with your county since some places have back up programs for those who do not qualify. Also, if you are eligible for food stamps you are usually eligible for other services like a free cellphone with 200 free minutes a month, & assistance with utilities. Local offices can also point you to resources that will assist you with finding housing or rent assistance programs. The safety nets are imperfect, but they are there & don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for using them.

5 comments to Foodstamps 101

  • karnythia, thanks so much for this post. That is all great advice. In many parts of the country, people can also call 2-1-1 to connect with community resources. The 2-1-1 line is staffed by a nonprofit with a directory of all the local resources, government and otherwise.

    The other thing I wish people knew about food stamps (or any state government-administered program) is this: if you run into problems, call your local legislator’s office. Your state rep or your state senator, the ones who can lean on the state agency that administers the benefits. They have people whose job it is to get in touch with the state agency and find out why, for example, you were told one thing by worker A and something else by worker B, or worker C told you that your application would be reviewed by a certain date but it’s five days after that and you haven’t heard anything. Your legislator’s office constituent services staff can’t make you eligible for a program if you’re not (that’s determined by law and regulation), but they can get problems solved with a quickness. I used to work at the state agency that administered food stamps, Medicaid, CHIP, TANF, disaster relief, and other programs in our state. When Jane So-and-so from Representative ElectedGuy’s office called and wanted to know why someone in the Rep’s district didn’t have a Medicaid card they should have gotten in the mail last week, stuff got done. And they don’t check to see if you voted, they should just help you. If your Rep’s office or Senator’s office isn’t particularly helpful, try the other one if you’re in a state where you have both a state House and a state Senate.

    (If it’s a federal-only program like Social Security or Medicare, contact your U.S. Senator or U.S. Representative.)

  • osiyo

    When I was pregnant with my daughter, the people at the food stamp office told me if I admitted her father lived with me I would be denied.

    But if I lied, I would be denied and charged with a crime.

    I wish I had known who to call back then. I might have had fewer going hungry days.

  • I told my boyfriend to apply for food stamps. He’s been getting fewer and fewer hours at work and his car had been giving him problems (not to mention the rising cost of gas…when it is running). Too many times, he’s had to decide between putting gas in his car and buying something for dinner. He is free to come eat at my place, but in all honesty he has a much bigger appetite than I have…and I was tired of constantly facing an empty fridge.

    He applied online, got an appointment about a week later. I took another 3 weeks to get his card and benefits. It’s really helped lighten the financial burden of both him AND me.

    I’m so tired of people complaining about social services (welfare, food stamps, etc.) and not owning up to the fact that the cost of living keeps going up every year yet wages are stagnating. Not everyone on foodstamps is a lazy bum who pops out babies every year. In our case I am a college graduate; I work for the state where our union negotiated a pay freeze, in order to avoid layoffs, for the next 3 years. My boyfriend is in college part-time, working part-time and pays child support and has shared custody of his daughter. It’s frickin’ tough out here; even when you’ve done “everything right”.

  • Marquita Bloodworth

    I read this post and got upset. I am a black woman who despises the free lunch. It was sad to me because instead of relying on each other for the bare survival essentials like fucking food, we go to the governments institution and have “big daddy help us. I know this is a fantastic, far fetched, dreamy fantasy, but what if we had a blog feed for women (who are responsible for the nutritional health of the nuclear family) that provided help with distributing healthy nutritional food, budgeting help, black grocery stores that donated,etc.? It would eliminate the degrading, subjugating act of waking up early in the morning and drudging down to the DFACS institution, then upon arrival being treated like a bad person for being poor by a woman that shares your same color. I have been there and done that. If family and friends help out more and we worked together as a collective family group, we would not need food stamps, or white supremacy institutions. Oh what a fantasy world I live in right?

    • Marquita Bloodworth

      Disclaimer. Oh yes, and reading the food stamps 101 did not get me upset at this site, just the condition of our thinking and the way things are st up to destroy our (descendants of Africa) family institution.