Many low-income families struggle to put food on the table, which is where SNAP benefits come in. If money is tight, SNAP allows households to stretch their limited budgets and receive nutritious food. SNAP helps lift families out of poverty, often acting as the first line of defense against hunger for many households. Here is a quick overview of what you should know about SNAP benefits.
What is SNAP?
SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. It is also known as the Food Assistance Program, or other names depending on the state. SNAP was formerly known as food stamps, since participants used physical stamps to purchase food when the program originated in 1939. The program was renamed to SNAP in 2018 once physical food stamps were eliminated and benefits were distributed electronically.
SNAP is a federally funded program from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that offers nutrition assistance to millions of low-income families and individuals. SNAP provides nutrition benefits that can be used at stores to purchase healthy food. As the nation’s largest program working to fight hunger in America, SNAP is the nation's most effective way of helping people put food on the table and maintain a healthy diet.
On top of the program’s assistance in providing nutritious diets and ability to help families out of poverty, SNAP benefits spent directly at grocery stores also help stimulate the economy. Research has shown that for every $1 spent on SNAP, an average of $1.70 is added back to the economy. SNAP stimulus also comes in the form of jobs, with anywhere from 8,900 to 17,000 jobs created for every $1 billion in SNAP funding.
Ultimately, SNAP benefits help strengthen communities by providing the fuel and nutrition people need to function and survive. SNAP is proven to help both low-income families and the economy, making it one of the most effective federal benefits programs.
In 2015, SNAP lifted 4.5 million Americans above the poverty line, including 2 million children and 366,000 seniors
In 2019, SNAP reached 38 million people
9.5 million families with children across the United States depend on SNAP across the United States
Ohio 2018 statistics
$2.06 billion in SNAP issued
1,407,632 people on SNAP per month
$121 average monthly payment
81% SNAP participation rate, which was lower than the national average of 84%
Ranked #32 in SNAP participation nationwide
11% of households received SNAP
49.1% of households receiving SNAP were below the poverty line
12% of households received SNAP
45% of households receiving SNAP were below the poverty line
In order to be eligible for SNAP, you must fall at or below certain income guidelines based on the federal poverty line. Currently, people with gross incomes up to 130% of the federal poverty line can receive benefits. How much SNAP benefits someone gets depends on their income, expenses, and the number of people in the household. SNAP is targeted toward our most at-risk citizens, predominantly serving households with children, elderly or disabled members. Nearly half of all SNAP participants are children. While SNAP is primarily targeted toward our most at-risk citizens, such as households with children, elderly, or disabled members, able-bodied adults with no children may also be eligible for SNAP, though there may be additional requirements.
Nearly 15 percent of people who qualify for SNAP are not accessing those benefits because they do not know they are eligible, or they are unsure how to apply for them. With our new SNAP Assistance Program, Second Harvest Food Bank can help you fill out your application and make sure you have the proper documentation ready for review.
SNAP provides nutrition benefits by supplementing the food budget of eligible families and promoting healthy diets. SNAP can be used to purchase nutritious foods, such as fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, dairy products, breads, and cereals, at most stores and farmers markets. SNAP cannot be used for any alcohol or tobacco products or any nonfood items, such as household supplies, clothing, medicine, and vitamins. Since SNAP benefits can only be used to purchase healthy foods, SNAP is an effective way at ensuring people receive a variety of nutrients and practice healthy eating habits.
How SNAP works
While SNAP is a federally funded program, it is administered by the states, so the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services for each county (i.e. Clark, Champaign, and Logan Counties) handles all the applications and benefits. SNAP has moved away from physical food stamps and now distribute the benefits through an Electronic Balance Transfer (EBT) card, also referred to as an Ohio Direction Card. This card works like a debit card, with the pre-determined benefits loaded onto the EBT card every month. The EBT card is accepted at nearly all grocery stores and supermarkets, as well as many farmer's markets.
How SNAP helped during the COVID-19 pandemic
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many households experienced food insecurity for the first time, while low-income families who were already struggling to put food on the table before the pandemic were met with even more hardships.
As part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act of 2020, the Pandemic-Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program was created. The P-EBT program was designed to provide eligible children K-12 with temporary SNAP benefits for each day that school was closed due to COVID-19 or for those learning virtually in the 2020-2021 school year. Children who qualify for free or reduced meals can receive $5.70 in SNAP benefits through P-EBT. The Ohio P-EBT program was extended through the summer of 2021, with eligible children receiving P-EBT funds. These benefits supplement additional free meal programs, such as Second Harvest’s Summer Feeding Program.
Part of the reason why the P-EBT program has been so effective is because it draws from SNAP’s pre-existing structure for emergency relief. By alleviating the financial burden created by the pandemic, SNAP and P-EBT have been critical in keeping children fed during these difficult times.
How SHFB can help
One of the biggest pieces of advice that the Director of Clark County Department of Jobs and Family Services offers is to never assume you are not eligible for benefits, especially since applying is free. If you think you may be eligible for SNAP benefits, Second Harvest Food Bank is here to help! We are currently developing a SNAP Assistance Program to help those in our community who may be eligible to receive SNAP benefits complete their application.
Stay tuned for more details about our SNAP Assistance Program, which you can find on our website at www.theshfb.org/programs. We are excited to start educating and raising awareness about SNAP benefits, as well as assisting with applications in the near future.
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