Apply for Federal Nutrition Assistance Programs
If you or someone you know is in need of longer-term food assistance, government-funded programs such as SNAP (formerly food stamps), WIC, school meals, and more are also available and can help to connect you with the food resources you need. Click the name of the program below to get more information.
SNAP stands for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. SNAP is a federal program that helps millions of low-income Americans put food on the table. Across the United States there are 9.5 million families with children on SNAP. It is the largest program working to fight hunger in America.
SNAP provides timely, targeted, and temporary benefits to people in need so that Americans have access to nutritious food. SNAP responds quickly to changes in our population, growing in response to increases in poverty and unemployment, and shrinking as the need is met and reduced. SNAP is administered by the states, which have considerable discretion to adapt the program to best meet the needs of their residents.
SNAP benefits are delivered monthly through electronic debit (EBT) cards, which are used to purchase groceries at one of the more than 238,000 authorized retailers nationwide.
For more information about SNAP, visit:
The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) operates in public and private schools, providing nutritionally balanced meals each school day. Federal child nutrition programs like NSLP address child hunger and promote good nutrition. With over 1 in 5 children in the United States living in a food-insecure household, NSLP plays a critical role in the healthy development and long-term health and educational outcomes for low-income children. Any child at a participating school may purchase a meal through the National School Lunch Program. Children from families with incomes at or below 130 percent of the poverty level are eligible for free meals. Those with incomes between 130 percent and 185 percent of the poverty level are eligible for reduced-price meals, for which students can be charged no more than 40 cents.
The School Breakfast Program (SBP) operates in public and private schools, providing nutritionally balanced food each school day. Federal child nutrition programs like SBP reduce child hunger and promote good nutrition. Research shows that children who eat breakfast score better on tests, show improved learning skills and memory retention, and have lower rates of tardiness and absenteeism. With 1 in 7 children in the United States living in a food-insecure household, SBP plays a critical role in the healthy development and long-term health and educational outcomes for low-income children.
For more information about the National School Lunch Program and the Breakfast Program, visit:
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) safeguards the health of low-income women, infants, and children up to age 5 who are at nutritional risk. The program provides nutritious foods, nutrition and breastfeeding education, and healthcare access in order to safeguard low-income women, infants, and children dealing with, or at risk of developing nutrition-related health problems.
While hunger affects people of all ages, it is particularly devastating to children. Research shows that poor nutrition during early childhood increases the chance of anemia, limits memory development, and can affect a child’s ability to learn. WIC works to prevent child health problems and to improve a child’s growth and development by providing support during a critical period of life.
Eligibility is limited to families with incomes up to 185 percent of the poverty level. However, WIC is not an entitlement program – it can only serve as many people as it has funding available. Funding is set each year through the annual appropriations process.
For more information about WIC:
The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) is a means-tested federal program that provides food commodities at no cost to Americans in need of short-term hunger relief through food providers like emergency food pantries, food banks, soup kitchens and shelters.
Through TEFAP, the USDA purchases USDA foods and makes them available to State Distributing Agencies. States provide the food to local agencies that they have selected which in turn distribute the food to local organizations that directly serve the public, such as soup kitchens and food pantries. States also provide the food to other types of local organizations, such as community action agencies, which distribute the foods directly to low-income households. Each state is responsible for setting its own eligibility requirements.
For more information about TEFAP, visit:
The Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), often called “the senior box program”, serves 619,000 low-income seniors with incomes of less than 130 percent of the Federal Poverty Line (approximately $15,301 for a senior living alone). CSFP helps vulnerable seniors from having to choose between food and other basic needs. CSFP food packages, specifically designed to supplement needed sources of nutrients typically lacking in participants’ diets, can play an important role in combatting the health consequences of senior hunger and can ultimately help seniors avoid costly hospitalizations and nursing home placements.
For more information about CSFP, visit: