Do You Have to Have Food Stamps to Go to a Food Bank?

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Millions of Americans do not have enough food. An astonishing one in six Americans is hungry, according to the Feeding America organization. Food banks help meet their needs. People do not have to have food stamps to receive food from a food bank. However, food banks can help them apply for food stamps if they are eligible.

Eligibility for Food Banks

Every food bank has different eligibility requirements, so you should check with the food bank in your area. In general, many food banks require that food recipients be low-income residents of the area. Food banks may require proof of residency, such as a utility bill or a recent piece of mail. They also may require proof of income. Some may conduct intake interviews. To find out what papers you need to bring with you, if any, call your local food bank or look on the food bank's website.

Food Stamp Outreach Program

Although you don't need food stamps to receive food from food banks, many food banks will help you apply for food stamps. A recent change in the law lets food bank workers conduct screening interviews for food stamp eligibility. Before this new program, only federal employees could do the interviews. The food stamp outreach program should help applicants get their food stamps more quickly than before. Applicants may even be able to apply for food stamps over the phone by calling their local food bank.

Related Programs

Some communities provide additional services for people who need help obtaining food. For example, organizations may offer special programs for children and their families, for seniors and for people with disabilities. Some programs deliver food to people who are unable to make the trip to food banks. Some programs offer educational workshops conducted by nutritionists. For more information about these programs, contact your local food bank.

Food Stamp Program

The federal food stamp program has had a name change. Though most people still use the term "food stamps," the official name is now the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Eligibility is based on household income and expenses for housing, medical care, utilities and child support. There are also some limits on assets. Many people who are eligible for food stamps do not receive them, and the outreach program run by food banks is intended to bring benefits to more people who could use them.

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