The government offers food assistance programs for people that have difficulty securing enough food to maintain good nutrition. The United States Department of Agriculture offers two assistance programs, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), otherwise known as food stamps, and the National School Lunch Program.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program helps people with low incomes buy groceries. The United States Department of Agriculture reports that in 2009, SNAP provided assistance to about 31 million people. You can use your food stamps to purchase most grocery items. You cannot buy alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, vitamins, medications, pet food or other nonfood items. You also cannot buy hot food items meant to be eaten in the store. You can buy plants or seeds that you plan to use to grow your own food.
National School Lunch Program
The United States Department of Agriculture reports that in 2009, the National School Lunch Program provided free or reduced cost lunches to more than 31 million students in public and private schools. The amount children pay for school lunches under this program depends on their family income. To qualify for reimbursement for lunches under the National School Lunch Program, schools must serve lunches that meet federal guidelines regarding the amount of calories, fat and other nutrients in the meals.
The primary benefit of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the National School Lunch Program, of course, is the fact that people have access to nutritious food they might otherwise be unable to afford. People of all ages experience improved health when they have access to nutritious food and school children learn better when they have healthful meals at lunchtime.
Eligibility for food stamps and free lunches at school is based on both your income level and your family size. Income guidelines vary slightly from state to state. The agency that administers food stamps in your state may also consider other factors, such as how much you spend each month in dependent childcare expenses and how much you must pay each month in child support for children that do not live with you.
You must apply for food stamps in the county in which you live. The name of the agency at which you apply varies from state to state; in Ohio they call it the Department of Job and Family Services and in Kentucky they call it the Cabinet of Health and Family Services. You can apply for free lunches at your child’s school. You will need to provide verification of your household income along with a completed application.
United States Department of Agriculture. http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/faqs.htm. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
United States Department of Agriculture. http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/lunch/AboutLunch/NSLPFactSheet.pdf. National School Lunch Program.