Applying For Food Stamps

What is the Food Stamp Program?
The Food Stamp Program, known at the federal level as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, is a state-administered federal nutrition assistance program. Federal law sets forth the factors for eligibility and amount of benefits, while each state screens applicants, determines eligibility and is responsible for record-keeping.

How do I apply for Food Stamps?
To apply for food stamps, you will have to fill out an application and provide certain supporting documents to your local food stamp processing agency.

To get an application for food stamp benefits, you can:

  • Call your local Department of Social Services and ask them to mail you an application;
  • Go to your local Department of Social Services and pick up an application;
  • Print out an application from the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance webpage at; or
  • File an application online at

You can apply for food stamps by mail, in person, fax, online or through a third party such as a friend, relative or community agency representative.

Can I apply for other benefits at the same time I apply for Food Stamps?
Yes. There is a 16-page joint application which can be used to apply for multiple services (child care assistance, medical assistance, food stamps and/or temporary assistance).

What documentation will I need to provide?
You may need to provide the following documentation to apply for food stamps:

  • Proof of Identity (photo ID, birth certificate, Social Security card)
  • Social Security numbers for all household members
  • Birth certificates for all children in the household
  • Proof of shelter expenses (rent receipt, lease or mortgage)
  • Proof of utility expenses (e.g., National Grid bill)
  • Proof of income (child support letter, SS benefits statement, pay stubs, SSI award letters, etc.)
  • Bank statement(s)
  • Medical bills (if you are disabled and/or senior)
  • Child care expenses

Not everyone will need all of these documents, and not all of the listed documents are relevant to all applicants. Applicants should have with them as many of these documents as they apply to their household situation so they can be forwarded with the application. If a document verifying an expense for budgeting purposes, such as shelter expenses, is not readily available, the food stamp case can still be opened and calculated without the shelter deduction, but the household might get a smaller amount than it would have received if the expense had been confirmed.

What happens next?
The local Department of Social Services will interview you.

Do I have to be interviewed in person?
The interview is part of the eligibility process for the Food Stamp Program. Some households might be eligible for a waiver of a face-to-face interview. This does not mean there is no interview, but rather the interview will be conducted by telephone or a local department worker will go to the applicant’s home. Many households are automatically granted a waiver of the face-to-face interview. Other applicants have to request a waiver of the face-to-face interview.

How do I request a waiver of the face-to-face interview?
If all the adults in the household are elderly and/or disabled, and there is no earned income in the household, the local Department of Social Services MUST waive the face to face interview and interview the applicant either by telephone or a scheduled home visit. A department worker cannot go to the applicant’s home without notice to the applicant who is to be interviewed.

If you do not meet the criteria for an automatic waiver, you might be able to get a waiver of the face to face interview by requesting a waiver due to hardship. A hardship is generally a situation that prevents the applicant from getting to the local Department of Social Services for the interview and can include transportation difficulties, illness, care of a household member, inclement weather or work hours that conflict with the local DSS business hours. Waivers are granted on a case-by-case basis.

How long will it take to get my food stamps?
Unless eligible for expedited processing of your application (see LifeLine about Expedited Food Stamps), most food stamp applications take 30 days to process. You must receive a written decision about your food stamp application and, if you are approved, benefits should start as of the date you filed your application. If approved, you will receive an Electronic Benefit Card and your benefits will be automatically added to the card each month. You will be asked to select a PIN for the card so that only you, the applicant, will be able to use the card for buying food.

What if I am denied for benefits or need help applying for food stamps?
If you have been denied for benefits and you do not agree with the decision regarding your application for food stamps, you may be entitled to a fair hearing. The denial form will give you information about how to request a fair hearing.

If you need help applying for food stamps, please feel free to call the local Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York office for help.