Food Assistance Program Guide

If you’re hungry now:

  • Call the National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3-HUNGRY (1-866-348-6479) or 1-877-8-HAMBRE (1-877-842-6273) in Spanish. The hotline operates Monday through Friday, 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM Eastern Time.
  • Find a local food bank.
  • Contact community or religious organizations.

Food Stamps (SNAP Food Benefits)

What help is available?

If you have a low income, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as “food stamps,” is a federal nutrition program that can help you stretch your food budget.

Am I eligible?

To determine if you are eligible, you must meet certain requirements including resource and income limits.

How do I apply?

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?

How do I file a complaint?

If you need to file a complaint concerning your food stamps or attempt to get food stamps, the following resources can help:

For Retailers

If you are a retailer or farmers market trying to become authorized to accept SNAP benefits, follow these application steps.

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?

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?

  • 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.

How do I apply?

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?

For more information, contact your state or local WIC agency or look on its website. You can also call its toll-free number.

Is there anything else I need to know?

If your agency doesn’t have enough money to serve everyone who needs WIC, 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 help is available?

Kids from qualified, low-income households can get healthy meals or milk at their school or childcare center through these programs:

Am I eligible?

Your kids automatically qualify for free meals or milk if:

Your kids may qualify for meals or milk if your household income is within the Federal Income Eligibility Guidelines. These guidelines are based on federal poverty guidelines.

  • If your household 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?

At the beginning of the school year or at any time if circumstances change, submit an application from the school.

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

What help is available?

Most states offer these food programs for low-income seniors:

Am I eligible?

Low-income seniors (age 60 and older) who live in an area that offers either of these programs may apply for the program(s) offered.

How do I apply?

Is there anything else I need to know?

You may qualify for other food assistance programs including SNAP (food stamps) and the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations. Check the program websites or contact your local senior community center to learn more.

Get Emergency Help Paying for Food

You may be able to get short-term financial help for your family’s food following a disaster. If the president authorizes individual disaster assistance for your area, you may qualify for D-SNAP (PDF, Download Adobe Reader)—disaster supplemental nutrition assistance. 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.

Following a disaster, you may lose work or face big expenses, like repairing your home. So even if your normal household income wouldn’t qualify you for regular SNAP (food stamp) benefits, you may qualify for D-SNAP. If you already receive SNAP, you can apply for D-SNAP if the amount you’d receive is more than you get under SNAP.

Following a disaster, your children or your entire family may also be able to get free meals (PDF, Download Adobe Reader) through the school meals programs.


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