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Food Assistance

Learn how to get nutritious food for yourself and your family through SNAP (food stamps), D-SNAP, and WIC for women, infants, and children. Apply for school meals for your kids and supplemental food for seniors. Find out how food programs can provide emergency help during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Immediate Food Assistance

If you’re hungry now:

  • Call the USDA National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3-HUNGRY (1-866-348-6479) or 1-877-8-HAMBRE (1-877-842-6273). Information is available in English and Spanish. The hotline operates Monday through Friday, 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM Eastern Time.

  • Contact community or religious organizations to find a local food bank or food pantry.

Food Stamps and Meal Programs During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it may be easier for you and your family to get food stamps and take part in meal programs. Contact your state's social services agency to see if you're eligible.

During the pandemic:

  • Food stamp (SNAP) recipients may receive additional funding.

  • Parents can pick up school meals for their kids to eat at home.

  • People can enroll in food programs remotely rather than in person. This applies to programs for pregnant women, families, seniors, and people with disabilities.

Read about these and other government meal program changes during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Food Stamps (SNAP Food Benefits)

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a federal nutrition program. Known previously as "food stamps," SNAP benefits can help you stretch your food budget if you have a low income.

Learn About the Types of Food You Can Buy With SNAP Benefits

If you’re eligible, you can purchase food using benefits that are issued to you monthly. You can use your SNAP benefits to buy a variety of foods for your household, including:

  • Fruits and vegetables

  • Meat, poultry, and fish

  • Dairy products

  • Breads and cereals

See the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) list of foods and products you can buy using SNAP benefits.

Find Out If You Are Eligible for SNAP

To determine if you are eligible for SNAP benefits, you must meet certain requirements. States have income limits for SNAP recipients. They can also factor in your resources, such as money in the bank, to decide if you qualify for SNAP.  

Apply for SNAP Benefits

Use the online map to apply for SNAP and to find your state and local offices and phone numbers. You may also apply in person at your state or local office.

How Your SNAP Benefits Work

File a Complaint About SNAP

Whether you currently receive SNAP benefits or you're in the process of applying, you can file a complaint using these resources:

SNAP Information For Retailers

Learn how to work with SNAP if you are a retailer or if you operate a farmers market.

WIC Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children

This short-term program can help you get healthy food for yourself and your young children.

Learn About the WIC Program

Many low-income women and young children can get healthy food to add to their diet. It’s available through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). WIC also offers nutrition counseling and referrals to health, welfare, and social services.

Find Out If You or Your Children Are Eligible for the WIC Program

  • If you’re applying for yourself, you must be at least one of the following:

    • Pregnant

    • Breastfeeding

    • Within six months of having given birth or pregnancy ending

  • If you’re applying for your children, they must be under five years old.

  • You must meet other WIC eligibility requirements based on your income, your health, and where you live.

Apply for the WIC Program

Contact your state or local WIC agency for an appointment. When you call, someone will tell you where to apply and what to bring with you.

Learn More About the WIC Program

Your agency may not have enough money to serve everyone who needs WIC. In that case, it will maintain a waiting list and use a priority system to decide who will get WIC benefits first.

For more information and help applying, contact your state or local WIC agency. You can also call its toll-free number.

Free School Meals for Children

These programs can help you get healthy meals for your children at their school, childcare center, or after-school program.

Learn About School Meal Programs

Children from qualified households with a low income can get healthy meals or milk.

Find Out If Your Children Are Eligible for School Meal Programs 

Your children automatically qualify for free meals or milk if:

  • They are foster children under the legal responsibility of a foster care agency or court

Your children may qualify if your household income is within the Federal Income Eligibility Guidelines. These guidelines are based on federal poverty guidelines.

  • If your income is no more than 130 percent of the poverty level, they should qualify for free meals.

  • If your income is no more than 185 percent of the poverty level, they should qualify for reduced-price meals.

The summer food service program is open to all children and teens 18 and under at locations around the country. Find a site near you.

Apply for School Meal Programs for Your Children

Submit an application from the school. You can do this at the beginning of the school year or at any time if circumstances change.

Learn How to Get Help or File a Complaint About School Meal Programs

Contact your local school or school district for more information.

Free Food Programs for Seniors

Two federally-sponsored programs aim to get nutritious foods to seniors with a low income.

Learn About State Food Programs for Seniors

Most states offer these programs for seniors with a low income:

Find Out If You're Eligible for State Food Programs for Seniors

You may be eligible if you're:

Apply to State Food Programs for Seniors

Other Food Programs 

You may qualify for other programs including:

Check with your senior community center to learn about other local resources.

D-SNAP Helps With Food Costs After a Declared Disaster

If the president authorizes individual disaster assistance for your area, you may qualify for D-SNAP

Learn About D-SNAP 

The Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is also known as food stamps for disaster situations. D-SNAP provides one month’s worth of benefits on a debit-type card that you can use at most grocery stores.

  • Once your state sets up a D-SNAP program, you’ll have about a week to apply.

  • If you qualify, you’ll receive benefits within three days.

Find Out If You Qualify for D-Snap

You must live where:

  • The president has declared individual assistance for the disaster area
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service (USDA FNS) has approved states to operate D-SNAP in a disaster area
  • Your state has requested and received FNS approval to operate D-SNAP

You may qualify for D-SNAP even if you wouldn't normally qualify for regular SNAP (food stamps) because:

  • You may be out of work due to the disaster

  • You may be facing costly home repairs

If you already receive SNAP, you can apply for D-SNAP if the amount you’d receive is more than you get under SNAP.

As a separate benefit, you may be able to get free meals for your children or your entire family. This is provided through the school meals programs.

Apply for D-SNAP

Contact your local SNAP office to apply for D-SNAP or to find the location of special application sites throughout the affected disaster area. 

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Last Updated: June 8, 2021

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