The Food Stamp Program: Just the Facts

Authored By: Legal Services Alabama


The Food Stamp Program helps low income people buy food. Congress changed the name to the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP). Most people still call it Food Stamps.

This document answers questions about how to apply, how many food stamps you can receive, work requirements, reporting requirements and your rights under the program.

What is the Food Stamp Program?

  • The Food Stamp Program helps low income people buy food.
  • You get Food Stamps on "EBT" cards.
  • You use an EBT card just like a debit card or money to buy food.
  • You may also use an EBT card to buy plants and seeds to grow food to eat at home.

Where do I apply?

What information do I need?

  • When you apply for food stamps, you do not have to turn in any other documents.
  • When you go in for an interview, you should try to bring with you:
    • proof of your income
    • statements from your bank accounts
    • proof of your rent or house payment
    • if you are disabled or over 60, proof of your medical expenses
  • At your interview, your food stamp worker will give you a list of information you need to get.
    • If you can't get it all, your worker is supposed to help you. Ask for help as soon as you know you need it.
    • If you do not get all the information in on time, your food stamp worker can keep you from getting stamps.

How many food stamps can I get?

  • The amount of food stamps you get depends on:
    • the number of people in your household; and
    • the amount of income the household has
  • For example, a three-person Food Stamp family can get up to $511.
  • How much money can I make and still get food stamps?
  • It depends on how many people are in your household.
  • There is a net income limit based on the size of your household.
  • There is also a gross income limit (also based on household size) that you must meet unless an elderly or disabled person is in your household.
  • For the gross and net income limits, go to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Income.

Are there any work requirements?

  • If you live in Houston, Jefferson, Madison, Mobile, Montgomery, Shelby or Tuscaloosa County, you must meet special work rules. There, if you are between 16 and 60, you must:
    • register for work,
    • take part in an employment and training program to which the Food Stamp Office refers you and
    • accept or continue suitable employment.
  • If you fail to do all these things, the Food Stamp Office can stop your food stamps.
  • No matter where you live, you can't get food stamps if you quit a job without a very good reason.

Reporting Requirements

  • If you are a quarterly reporter:
    • You must report any new job on each quarterly report form. Your worker will tell you anything else. Even if you have had no changes, you must file your report.
    • The quarterly report form is due between the 1st and 10th of the month following the month you receive it.
  • If you are not a quarterly reporter, you have 10 days after you learn of the change to report it to the Food Stamp Office.

Your Rights

You have the right to:

  • Receive an application when you ask for it.
  • Turn in your application the same day you receive it.
  • Receive your food stamps (or be notified that you are not eligible for the program) within 30 days after you turn in your application.
  • Have a fair hearing if you disagree with any action taken on your case.

Complaint Procedure

  • You may file a complaint if you think the Food Stamp Office treated you unfairly or differently because of your race, color, national origin, handicapping disability, age, sex, political belief or religion.
  • You may file Food Stamp Program complaints with:

    USDA Director Office of Civil Rights
    1400 Independence Avenue, S.W.
    Washington, DC 20250-9410
    800/795-3272 OR TTY 866/377-8642

Reviewed October 2015 offers legal information, not legal advice. This website provides information on your rights and options. However, the site does not apply the law to your personal facts. For legal advice, you should call a lawyer. To apply for free legal services in Alabama, call the Legal Services Alabama office that is closest to where you live OR call toll-free 1-866-456-4995. You can also apply online HERE.

Last Review and Update: Jul 28, 2023
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