The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP),  is formerly known as the Food Stamp Program. It provides assistance to lower income nutrition assistance to millions of eligible, low-income individuals and families.

Who Is Eligible for SNAP?

Unlike most means-tested benefit programs, which are restricted to particular categories of low-income individuals, SNAP is broadly available to almost all households with low incomes.  SNAP eligibility rules and benefit levels are, for the most part, uniform across the nation.  Under federal rules, to qualify for SNAP benefits, a household must meet three criteria (although states have flexibility to adjust these limits):

  • Its gross monthly income generally must be at or below 130 percent of the poverty line, or $2,069 (about $24,800 a year) for a three-person family in fiscal year 2013.  Households with an elderly or disabled member need not meet this limit.
  • Its monthly net income, or income after deductions are applied for items such as high housing costs and child care, must be less than or equal to the poverty line (about $19,100 a year or $1,591 a month for a three-person family in fiscal year 2013).
  • Its assets must fall below certain limits:  households without an elderly or disabled member must have assets of $2,000 or less, and those with an elderly or disabled member must have assets of $3,250 or less.

Some categories of people are not eligible for SNAP regardless of how small their income or assets may be, such as strikers, most college students, and certain legal immigrants.  Undocumented immigrants also are ineligible for SNAP.  Most unemployed childless adults are limited to three months of benefits in many areas of the country, though this limit may be waived in areas of high unemployment.

For more information, see A Quick Guide to SNAP Eligibility and Benefit Rules, at

To Apply…

To apply for benefits, or for information about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, contact your local SNAP office. You can find local offices and each State’s application on the national map. Local offices are also listed in the State or local government pages of the telephone book. The office should be listed under “Food Stamps,” “Social Services,” “Human Services,” “Public Assistance,” or a similar title. You can also call your State’s SNAP hotline number. Most are toll-free numbers.

Please don’t call us at FNS headquarters to apply. We don’t handle applications for the SNAP here. The State and county offices do that. And we don’t have application forms. Each State has its own application form. If your State’s form is not on the web yet, you’ll need to contact your local SNAP office to request one.

What is the SNAP Application Process in HAWAII?

Hawaii residents seeking SNAP assistance must fill out a standard benefits application form, which is available for pick up from all State benefits offices, and for download from the Department of Human Services (DHS) website.  After you have filled out your application and gathered all the required paperwork to verify your information, visit the benefits office closest to your residence.  You can find a list of statewide offices on the DHS website.

An intake worker will review your completed application package to determine if you qualify for SNAP benefits.  If  you are eligible, the worker will assign you to one of three eligibility standards, based on your family’s unique situation.   The federal poverty guidelines (FPL) listed below will help you to determine if your monthly income exceeds SNAP eligibility criteria.   If your income exceed the criteria, you will not be eligible for SNAP assistance.

*** This Federal Poverty Limit (FPL) chart is for reference only.  Based on your monthly gross income (MGI), an intake worker will make the final determination of  your eligibility category.

Household Size

200% Monthly Gross Income (BBCE)

130% Monthly Gross Income

100% Net Monthly Income













































 NOTE: 200% Broad Based Categorical Eligibility (BBCE) is based on 100% SNAP FPL

Broad-Based Categorical Eligibility (BBCE) expands SNAP benefits to low-income families with high expenses, and to families whose gross incomes are slightly higher than the 130% FPL normal gross income test. Under BBCE, the gross income limit is 200% FPL and there is an unlimited asset standard.  Most households qualify for BBCE.  However, if a household member has been disqualified under SNAP, it may not qualify for BBCE.

Other eligibility criteria include:

  • Households where all members receive, or are authorized to receive TANF or SSI cash assistance, are categorically eligible for SNAP.  There is no gross income limit, no net income limit and no asset limit.
  • Net monthly income must be 100 percent or less of the Federal poverty guidelines. Net income is figured by adding all of a household’s gross income, and then taking a number of approved deductions for child care, extra shelter costs and other expenses. Households with an elderly or disabled member are subject only to the net income test.
  • Most able-bodied adult applicants must meet certain work requirements.
  • All household members must provide a Social Security number or apply for one.

How Much Do Households Receive in Benefits?

Nationally speaking, the average SNAP recipient received about $133.41 a month (or about $4.45 a day) in fiscal year 2012.

The SNAP benefit formula targets benefits according to need:  very poor households receive larger benefits than households closer to the poverty line since they need more help affording an adequate diet.  The benefit formula assumes that families will spend 30 percent of their net income for food; SNAP makes up the difference between that 30 percent contribution and the cost of the Thrifty Food Plan, a low-cost but nutritionally adequate diet established by the US Agriculture Department.

A family with no net income receives the maximum benefit amount, which usually equals the cost of the Thrifty Food Plan for a household of its size (see table) — though it is temporarily higher because of the 2009 Recovery Act.  For example, a family of three that has $600 in net monthly income would receive the maximum benefit ($526) minus 30 percent of its net income (30 percent of $600 is $180), or $346. These numbers vary for Hawaii.