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Questions and Answers About Federal Food Assistance Programs

Ashley Gehl, Graduate Assistant, and Ardith Brunt, Ph.D., R.D., Associate Professor, Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences, NDSU

Do you struggle with getting enough food to feed yourself and/or your family? If so, the good news is that a number of resources are available to assist you in getting the nutritious food. These resources include WIC or SNAP, both of which are federal food assistance programs.

What is WIC?

WIC is the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children. WIC serves pregnant and breastfeeding moms, women who have had a baby in the past six months, infants and children up to age 5 who have an eligible income. Other caregivers such as fathers, step-parents, grandparents and foster parents may apply for children under age five living in their household.

WIC provides checks for healthy foods like milk, cereal, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole wheat bread, eggs, peanut butter, cheese, yogurt, and beans. The checks are used at local grocery stores. WIC nutritionists offer practical and useful nutrition information including breastfeeding support and education. WIC also provides referrals to other community programs.

How do you know if you meet WIC eligibility requirements?

To qualify for WIC, total gross household income must be less than 185% of the US Government Guidelines. For example, a family of three can earn $3,149 per month (before taxes and deductions, pregnant women count as two). Participation in Medical Assistance or SNAP (Food Stamps) may also qualify the family.

To learn more about eligibility requirements, visit the ND WIC website (www.ndhealth.gov/wic/) and use the Prescreening Tool. To apply, call your local WIC office. A listing of local WIC offices can be found at www.ndhealth.gov/wic/WICsites.pdf.

What is SNAP?

Another program you might want to check out is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program/SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps. SNAP is the nation’s largest federal nutrition assistance program. It assists single people and families with little income to buy food. To apply, contact your local Social Services Department. Eligibility will be calculated based on your family income, resources, deductions, employment and immigrant status. For example, for a household of five, the net monthly income must be $2368 or lower. Net income is figured by subtracting allowable deductions from the household gross income.

To find out if you are eligible, go to the SNAP webpage (www.fns.usda.gov/snap/ supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-snap) and complete the pre-screening tool (https://www.snap-step1.usda.gov/fns/).

How do you use the federal funding to purchase items?
SNAP benefits are offered through an electronic benefit transfer or EBT card for people to use when purchasing food items at the local grocery store or some farmers markets.

If getting enough food is difficult, look into these programs for some help in purchasing healthy foods. Check out www.fns.usda.gov for more information.

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