About SNAP

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What is SNAP?

  • The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the largest federal program that helps eligible people with financial need get more money for food. SNAP benefits are used to purchase food at grocery stores, some online retailers, and some farmers’ markets. They are meant to supplement your grocery budget which also includes money from other sources. You don’t need to pay SNAP benefits back.
  • Everyone who applies for SNAP and is eligible will receive SNAP benefits, and using SNAP benefits does NOT take away benefits from anyone else. Federal funding for SNAP increases when more people are enrolled in SNAP.

How does the SNAP program work?

  • If you are eligible for benefits, you will receive an EBT card (Electronic Benefit Transfer) that looks like a credit or debit card. This card will have your SNAP benefit money loaded onto it every month. You will need to choose a code or PIN (personal identification number) that you will enter when you are in the check-out line at the grocery store.

Am I eligible for SNAP?

As a student, you may be eligible for SNAP benefits if you meet ALL of the following criteria:

  • Live in a University apartment or off campus (not in a residence hall)
  • Do not have a campus meal plan, or have a campus meal plan that provides less than half of your meals
  • Earn less than $2,430 a month 
  • Are a US citizen or a Lawful Permanent Resident 
  • Meet at least one of the following criteria:
    • You are approved for state or federal work-study and have a work-study job
    • You work 20 hours or more per week at any job(s)
    • You have a documented physical or mental disability that prevents you from working
    • You are responsible for the care of a child under age 6 who lives with you
    • You are responsible for the care of a child between 6 and 11 who lives with you AND childcare is unavailable
    • You are a single parent who is responsible for the care of a child under 12
    • You are under age 18 or over age 50

Take the screening survey to find out if you should apply.

How much financial assistance can I expect to receive if I qualify for SNAP benefits?

Monthly SNAP benefit amounts vary based on income, expenses, and household size. For a one-person household, the monthly SNAP benefit ranges from $20 - $291.

What can I use SNAP benefits for and where can I use them?

  • You can buy groceries with your SNAP EBT card. 
  • You can’t buy non-food items, such as paper products, household and personal hygiene supplies, alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, vitamins, medication, pet foods, foods eaten in the store, or hot ready-to-eat "deli" food with your card.
  • You can use your SNAP benefits at local grocery stores, with Instacart, and online at Aldi, Amazon, Hugo’s Family Marketplace and Walmart, as well as at some farmers’ markets.

Applying for SNAP

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What is the application process like? How long will it take? What documents will I need to provide?

  • SNAP benefits are managed by a team of people who work for the county you live in. They are financial workers and they will be your main contacts to check the status of your application and to recertify. If you’re not sure which county you live in, you can look it up using your zip code.
  • There are six steps involved in applying for, receiving, and maintaining SNAP benefits:
    • 1. Complete an application at mnbenefits.mn.gov
      • Time required: 20 minutes or less
      • Complete an application on your computer or phone. You will be asked to provide information about yourself including estimates of your income and expenses, and the names of any people who live with you. You will not be required to create a username or password. This video guide to completing a SNAP application created by the SNAP Outreach Team at Second Harvest Heartland answers many common questions you may have as you complete the application.
      • You can provide supporting documentation (like pay stubs and documentation of your housing expenses) when you apply or upload it later, within 30 days of the date you submitted your application.
      • You can provide your best guess for your income, hours worked per week, and other specifics like the amount of money you have in savings and checking accounts. Specific amounts can be provided later, when you submit supporting documents. 
      • Once you submit your application, if you provide your email address you will receive two emails: one with a copy of your application, and another with information about next steps.
    • 2. Start gathering and submitting all required documents
      • Timeframe: Documents must be uploaded within 30 days of submitting your application
      • Important: You will need to provide financial aid information to your county, including your financial aid award and cost of attendance. Note that financial aid does not count as income. The simplest way to provide documentation of your financial aid is to have One Stop complete this Financial Aid Information form and submit it to your county. There are two ways to work with One Stop to get this form completed:
        • 1. In person: Bring the Financial Aid Information form (printed or on your laptop) and your U card or other picture ID to One Stop and work with a One Stop Counselor to fill the form out.
        • 2. By email: Fill out the student portions of the form and electronically sign the ‘Authorization for Release of Information' section on the first page. (Here are instructions for electronically signing a form using Adobe Acrobat or Acrobat Reader.) Then, send the signed form to [email protected] from your UMN email address and include your student ID in the email. One Stop staff will fill it out and send it back to you so you can send it to the county.
      • You will also need to submit the following types of documents to your county:
        • Identification (driver’s license, state ID, passport, etc.)
        • Social security numbers of the people in your household (just yours if you buy food & cook by yourself)
        • Proof of income from the last 30 days (paystubs, or federal income tax records if you are self-employed) and documentation of any other money coming into your household (unemployment, pension, etc.). The county will verify Social Security income.
        • Housing costs (lease, rent/house payment receipt, mortgage, etc.)
      • Additional documentation may be required depending on your situation.
      • Find your county to see how they prefer to receive documents.
      • If you do not upload all required documents within 30 days of the date you submitted your application, the county will close your case and you will need to start your application over by submitting a new application.
    • 3. Complete a phone interview with a financial worker from your county 
      • Timeframe: Within 30 days of submitting your application
      • You can expect to get a letter in the mail from your county 7-10 days after submitting your application. The letter will list a date and time span in which the county financial worker will call you to complete a phone interview.
      • When the county calls you, it may look like you’re getting a call from an unknown number. It is recommended that you answer any call that comes to your phone during the specified interview date and time.
      • If you haven’t received a letter from your county within two weeks of submitting your application or if you need to reschedule your phone interview, call your county directly. You can ask to complete your phone interview with the person you reach when you call.
    • 4. SNAP application determination
      • Timeframe: You will receive a letter in the mail from your county within 30 days of the date you submitted your SNAP application letting you know whether you have been approved or denied for SNAP benefits.
      • If you were not approved for SNAP benefits and you think you should be eligible, see the Q & A under "Additional Information" below.
    • 5. Getting your EBT card
      • Timeframe: You will receive your SNAP EBT card in the mail 5-7 days after you are approved for SNAP benefits.
      • The card comes in a plain envelope and may easily be overlooked--be on the lookout for your card if you have recently been approved for SNAP benefits.
    • 6. Recertification
      • Timeframe: 12 months
      • As a SNAP recipient, you will be required to report major changes (like a change in income, housing expenses, home address, or household size) soon after they happen, or at least every 6 months. You will also be required to recertify your eligibility for SNAP benefits every twelve months.
      • Your county will tell you what changes need to be reported and how to report them, and how to complete the recertification process.

How do I determine my “household size”?

If you buy your groceries and cook your own food, you are considered a household of one. If you share expenses and cook together with others, then these people are included in your total household size.

I have multiple addresses. Which address should I use for my SNAP application?

  • If the address where you currently live is different from your permanent address, you should list the address where you currently live as your address on your SNAP application.
  • If you move within Minnesota, you will need to provide your new address to your county by submitting a change report form. If you have changed counties, the management of your SNAP benefits will be transferred to the new county you are living in.
  • If you move out of Minnesota (e.g. over the summer), you will need to reapply for SNAP in the state you move to, and/or reapply for SNAP benefits when you return to Minnesota.
  • If you currently live outside of Minnesota, contact your local SNAP office to apply.

Will SNAP benefits affect my taxes or my financial aid?

No. SNAP benefits do not count as taxable income or financial aid. SNAP benefits will not affect your taxes or impact the amount of financial aid you are eligible to receive.

Where can I get help completing my SNAP application?

The SNAP Outreach Team at Second Harvest Heartland can answer questions you have about applying for SNAP benefits and help you complete a SNAP application. Email [email protected] or leave a message on the SNAP phone line at (651) 209-7963.

How long will my SNAP benefits last?

Your SNAP benefits will last as long as you continue to meet the eligibility criteria outlined above and maintain your SNAP certification status by reporting required changes and completing the recertification process. Your county will tell you what changes need to be reported and how to report them, and how to complete the recertification process.

Additional Information

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What special discounts are available to people who receive SNAP benefits?

Reduced prices and discounts for many services and cultural venues are available to people who receive SNAP benefits. Discounts are currently available for services including Amazon Prime, Metro Transit, and the YMCA, and for entertainment venues including the Walker Art Center, the Guthrie Theater, the Minnesota Zoo, and the Minnesota Children’s Museum.

I applied for SNAP using MN Benefits and haven’t heard back. What should I do?

  • If you applied for SNAP using MN Benefits and haven’t received a letter from your county within two weeks of submitting your application, call your county directly. Have your online application confirmation number ready. You can ask to complete your phone interview with the person you reach when you call.
  • If you’re not sure which county you live in, you can look it up by entering your zip code
  • When you call your county, prepare to select a response when prompted. You may be asked what language you speak, if you know your case number, if you are a single adult or a parent, and if you want to speak with a human services representative. Wait times can vary greatly, so choose a time to call the county when you have the ability to wait for up to an hour.

I applied but I think I was wrongfully denied benefits. What should I do?

  • If you received a letter from your county stating that you do not qualify for SNAP benefits and you think this is a mistake, you can call your county and ask them to review your case.
  • If the county reviews your case and maintains their decision but you still think you meet the eligibility criteria, you have the right to request that the Minnesota Department of Human Services review the county’s decision (i.e. file an appeal). You will need to file an appeal within 90 days of getting written notice of the county’s decision.

Where can I find more information about SNAP?

The Minnesota Department of Human Services maintains a page of Frequently Asked Questions about SNAP.

This page is maintained by Boynton Health. For information about other food resources for University of Minnesota students, visit Boynton Health's Nutritious U Food Pantry