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The amount of benefits an eligible household receives depends on the number of people in the household and the amount of income the household has. The dollar amount of food stamps that can be used in a month is called the "allotment."

Food stamps can be used to buy any food or food product for human consumption, as well as seeds and plants for use in home gardens to produce food. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance benefits cannot be used to purchase tobacco products or alcohol among other items.

Instead of actual stamps or other paper, food benefits are accessed through an Electronic Benefit Transfer System (EBT) which uses a plastic card that looks and acts like a debit card.

At the option of each state, disabled recipients who can't cook -- and even homeless people who aren't disabled -- can apply to use their food stamps at approved restaurants. Only the following states have adopted this feature, and even then, few restaurants participate: Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Wyoming.

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Federal Food Assistance/ Nutrition Programs

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Allotment: The Amount Of Assistance You Can Receive

The amount of benefits the household gets is called an allotment. The net monthly income of the household is multiplied by .3, and the result is subtracted from the maximum allotment for the household size to find the household's allotment. This is because SNAP households are expected to spend about 30 percent of their resources on food. 

(October 1, 2015 through September 30, 2016) 

People in HouseholdMaximum Monthly Allotment

$    194


$    357


$    511


$    649


$    771


   $    925  


$ 1,022


$ 1,169

Each additional person

$    146


Benefit Computation


 Multiply net income by 30%...
 (Round up)

 Subtract 30% of net income from the maximum 
 allotment for the household size...

 $1,154 net monthly income
 x .3 = $346.20 (round up to $347)

 $668 maximum allotment for 4 - $347 (30% of  
 net income) = $321, SNAP Allotment 
 for a full month

If a household applies after the first day of the month, benefits will be provided from the day the household applies.

SNAP benefits are available to all eligible households regardless of race, sex, religious creed, national origin, or political beliefs.

What You Can Buy With Nutritional Assistance

Households can use food stamps to buy any food or food product for human consumption, as well as seeds and plants for use in home gardens to produce food.

Households cannot use food stamps to buy:

  • Alcoholic beverages and tobacco.
  • Lunch counter items or foods to be eaten in the store.
  • Vitamins or medicines.
  • Pet foods.
  • Any non-food items such as soaps, paper products and grooming items. As noted above, you can buy certain seeds and plants.

Restaurants can be authorized to accept food stamps from qualified people who are homeless, elderly, or disabled people in exchange for low-cost meals.

Food stamps cannot be exchanged for cash.

Using Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT)

While traditionally food stamps were issued in paper form, they are now issued through Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT).

How EBT works: The nutritional supplement office gives the household a plastic electronic card and a PIN (Personal Identification Number).

The household pays for its groceries at authorized food stores by using the card at the checkout counter just like a bank debit card. The cost of the groceries bought is automatically deducted from the household's account.

Benefits are automatically loaded into the household's account each month on the designated date.

With the use of EBT, the use of food coupons is not conspicuous. Most other people in line will not notice that the person checking out is paying with food coupons.

Keep your receipts. If you keep the receipt you receive with each food purchase, you will know the amount of benefits that remain in your EBT account. This allows you to plan before you go to the store. Receipts are also important in case there are problems with your account.