Find out how to get food in case of an emergency, apply for food stamps and what free or low-cost food programs are available for infants, children and seniors.
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.
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.
What help is available through food stamps (SNAP food benefits)?
If you’re eligible, you can purchase food using benefits that are issued to you monthly. SNAP benefits can be used to buy a variety of foods for your household, including:
Fruits and vegetables
Meat, poultry, and fish
Breads and cereals
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has a list of foods and products that are eligible to buy using SNAP benefits.
Am I eligible for SNAP?
To determine if you are eligible, you must meet certain requirements. States can use your resources, such as money in the bank, and income limits to decide if you qualify for SNAP.
How do I apply for SNAP?
Find the online application for your state, local office addresses, and phone numbers. You may also apply in person at a state or local office.
Is there anything else I need to know about SNAP?
Your state will issue benefits each month on a plastic electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card. Much like a credit or debit card, you can use your EBT card to buy eligible food items. You must buy them from:
Some states have websites set up for managing your benefits. If your state doesn't have an EBT management website, you can contact your state SNAP office to check your benefits.
How do I 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.
Learn About the WIC Program for Women and Infants
This short-term program can help you get healthy food for yourself and your young children.
What help is available through 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.
Am I eligible for the WIC program?
If you’re applying for yourself, you must be at least one of the following:
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.
How do I apply for WIC?
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.
Who do I contact for extra help with WIC?
For more information, contact your state or local WIC agency. You can also call its toll-free number.
Is there anything else I need to know about WIC?
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.
Learn About Free Food Programs for School-Age Children
These programs can help you get healthy food for your children at their school, childcare center, or after-school program.
What food help is available for school-age kids?
Kids from qualified, low-income households can get healthy meals or milk.
Are my kids eligible for food programs through school?
Your kids automatically qualify for free meals or milk if:
Your kids 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 kids and teens 18 and under at locations around the country. Find a site near you.
How do I apply for food help for school-age 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.
How do I complain/who do I contact for extra help?
Contact your local school or school district for more information.
Learn About Free Food Programs for Seniors
Two federally-sponsored programs aim to get nutritious foods to low-income seniors.
What help is available?
Most states offer these programs for low-income seniors:
Am I eligible?
If you're 60 or older, low-income, and live in an area that offers either program, you may apply for it.
How do I apply?
Is there anything else I need to know?
You may qualify for other programs including:
Check the websites above or your local senior community center to learn more.
D-SNAP Helps With Food Costs After a Disaster
If the president authorizes individual disaster assistance for your area, you may qualify for 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.
You may qualify for D-SNAP even if you wouldn't qualify for regular SNAP (food stamps) because:
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.
Do you need help?
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Last Updated: January 15, 2020