Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

Food Stamp CardThe food stamp program, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, is administered by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) and is geared toward enabling low-income households to purchase the food they need to maintain proper nutritional levels and good health. The Thrifty Food Plan is USDA's estimate of a family's total monthly food expense broken down by household size adjusted annually in accordance with the cost of living index.

Urgent Notice: Online Scammers offer phony SNAP application Assistance
It has been reported that Internet ads, located alongside legitimate articles, are offering SNAP application assistance. Do not fall victim to these ads. SNAP employees or service providers will never ask for credit card or other personal information not already on your state agency application. Read more about this scam in the USDA scam alert notice.

SNAP eligibility
The program is designed to provide a nutritional supplement for both public assistance and non-public assistance households who meet certain eligibility standards with respect to income, resources and alien status. Factors such as household size, shelter and utility expense and monthly income are taken into account in determining specific benefit levels for each household. Individuals wishing to pre-screen their own eligibility, can do so at the My Benefits New York, which is a quick and easy way for people in New York state to find answers to questions about the state's programs and services.

Individuals who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and live alone may be eligible to automatically receive SNAP benefits under the New York State Nutrition Improvement Project. Call the hotline at (800) 342-3009 for additional information.

How to apply for benefits
Application for benefits may be made in person at the social services district office serving the household's municipality. If all household members are unable to appear for a face-to-face interview, a friend or relative may apply for SNAP on their behalf. If the applicant is unable to appoint an authorized representative, arrangements may be made under certain circumstances for a worker to conduct the interview at home or by telephone. Supplemental Security Income recipients may apply by mail or in person at their local Social Security office or the social services district office.

Eligibility process
Although an eligibility determination may take up to 30 days from the date of application, if eligible, benefits will be issued retroactively to the date the application was initially filed. In addition, an eligible SNAP household may be entitled to receive benefits on an expedited basis within 5 calendar days of the application date, provided the household's income and available resources are within established limits during the month of application.

Once eligibility is established, recipients are issued a Benefit Identification (ID) card and select a Personal Identification Number (PIN) to access benefits at retail sites throughout the county.

Maintaining eligibility
Once initial eligibility is established, a redetermination for continued participation in the SNAP program is conducted on a yearly basis. Each SNAP household is scheduled for a recertification interview at the end of the initial 12 month certification period in order to document changes in income, expenses, household composition or any other change in circumstances that may affect food stamp eligibility or degree of need. Food stamp recipients with earned income, however, are scheduled for a recertification interview every 6 months.

Certain employable household members may be required to participate in the SNAP Employment and Training Program as a condition of continued eligibility. It is important to note that the ultimate responsibility rests with the SNAP household in reporting changes in a timely fashion. Failure to comply in this regard, or intentionally withholding information or filing a fraudulent application may result in SNAP penalties, including a reduction in benefits, durational sanctions or permanent disqualification.

Households where all adult members are elderly or disabled may qualify for a 24-month certification period. Individuals who qualify for SNAP under the New York State Nutrition Improvement Project will be eligible for a 48-month certification period. For more information, call the hotline at (800) 342-3009.

Eat Smart New York
In partnership with Westchester County Department of Social Services, the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Westchester provides nutrition education to SNAP participants under the Eat Smart New York Program. The program enables participants with limited budgets to make healthier food choices. The ESNY classes meet in convenient places such as schools, senior centers and other community based locations.

Learning through ESNY is hands-on. Program participants prepare, cook and taste a variety of different foods and everyone who participates in a series of classes receives a certificate. To learn more or enroll in ESNY classes, call (914) 285-4630.