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Food Stamps

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the new name for the Food Stamp program.  SNAP benefits are used to buy food and help eligible low-income households in Pennsylvania obtain more nutritious diet by increasing their food purchasing power at grocery stores. 

If you are eligible for SNAP you will receive a Pennsylvania Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) ACCESS card.  This card works like a debit card and is used to make food purchases at grocery stores.

SNAP Eligibility Requirements

Income is a major factor in determining eligibility for SNAP.  Incomes includes both earned and unearned income.  Some examples of earned income are wages and salaries.  Examples of unearned income include public assistance, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), unemployment compensation, retirement benefits, disability benefits and pensions. 

Resources are also taken into account when determining eligibility for SNAP.  There are limits for the total amount of resources that one can have on hand and still qualify for SNAP.  Resources include cash, checking, and savings accounts, lump sum payments, unrestricted trusts, stocks, bonds and IRAs.

Other general eligibility requirements also include social security numbers for all applicants, meet residency and citizenship requirements, and adult recipients must meet work requirements.

The information provided is only a brief explanation of basic eligibility requirements for SNAP.  It does not include all eligibility requirements or cover all situations.  Contact the local county assistance office or call the Welfare Helpline toll-free at 1-800-692-7462 for more information.

How to Apply for SNAP

In Pennsylvania, you may apply for SNAP by using the COMPASS website, or by completing a paper form that can be mailed to the county assistance office.  To obtain a paper form, contact the Allegheny County Assistance Office Headquarters at (412) 565-2146.  They will also be able to inform you of the closest assistance office to your home within Allegheny County.

Depending on individual circumstance and available information, you may be asked to schedule an appointment with a county caseworker to discuss your eligibility and to verify your identity.

SNAP Eligible vs. Ineligible Foods

Not all food items can be paid for with SNAP.  The following is a list of examples of both eligible and ineligible foods.

Examples of Eligible Food Items:

  • Any food intended for human consumption including soft drinks, ice cream, coffee, spices, and candy
  • Seeds/plants to grow food for personal consumption
  • Meals prepared and served by an authorized meal delivery service, a communal dining facility for the elderly and/or SSI household, or a group living arrangement (e.g., rehabilitation center, shelter, provider of meals for the homeless)

Examples of Ineligible Food Items:

  • Any non-food item, including paper products, household supplies, soap, medicines, and cigarettes
  • Alcoholic beverages, pet food, hot foods for immediate consumption

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