Food Assistance Programs
Food assistance programs provide financial assistance to low-income individuals and families to help them buy food. There are two commonly used federal programs run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that provide money to eligible participants to purchase food only:
- The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps) is generally called by its acronym SNAP and sometimes referred to as EBT, which refers to Electronic Benefits Transfer.
- The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children is generally referred to as WIC.
Federal food assistance programs have eligibility requirements and are monitored by state agencies.
Some food assistance programs build off federal programs. Many states offer matching programs for SNAP beneficiaries that double the purchasing power of their SNAP dollars for fruits and vegetables at participating retail outlets. For example, when someone uses SNAP or WIC to purchase fruit at their local grocery store, a matching program allows them to buy $10 worth of produce for $5 in benefits.
Other programs provide coupons for people to buy healthy foods. For example, fruit and vegetable prescription programs like Wholesome Rx “prescribe” healthy foods to patients who are at risk of diet-related illness by providing a coupon to purchase food. These programs typically operate through hospital and retail partnerships.
Resources to Learn More
List of currently available federal food assistance programs. Includes a brief description of each program, with links to follow for more detailed information.
Organization(s): Feeding America
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) To
State-specific information and instructions on how to apply for SNAP benefits. For states that allow electronic submission, direct links to the online application form are provided.
Organization(s): U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service