What’s the Connection: “Food Stamps” and the Food Bank

“Food Stamps,” now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provide an average daily benefit of $4.50 a day, per person. SNAP benefits are distributed on debit-type cards that allow participants to buy groceries. In San Francisco and Marin counties, about 57,000 people rely on CalFresh, as SNAP is known in California, and most of them are children. 

Many food pantry participants are eligible for or also receive SNAP benefits. Food banks are a natural partner in SNAP outreach because of their direct connection to food insecure families in the community. The Food Bank does not provide SNAP benefits; however, the Food Bank does help food pantry participants sign up for SNAP through outreach programs. By connecting eligible families with SNAP, food banks help provide food insecure households with a consistent and stable means to purchase their own food. 

SNAP eligibility is limited to households with gross income of no more than 130 percent of the federal poverty guideline, which comes out to $25,400 for a family of three. However, the majority of households have income well below the maximum: 83 percent of SNAP households have gross income at or below 100 percent of the poverty guideline, or $19,530 for a family of three in 2013.

SNAP provides an average of about $146 per person per month to purchase food.

To apply for CalFresh, participants submit an application to the county office. The office follows up on the application through an in-person or phone interview. Applicants are asked to provide documents verifying income and expenses. Documents may include ID, social security number, pay stubs, bank statements, proof of housing costs and documents relating to immigration status, if applicable. A renewal interview is required annually to continue to receive benefits.