What is SNAP?

The USDA SNAP Program (previously known as food stamps) has been put in place to alleviate hunger and improve nutrition of low-income families and individuals including children, elderly, disabled dealing with economic hardship.  In 2011 alone, 15% of Americans experienced hunger at some point during the year, and another 5% of had very low food security (Agricultural and Food Law, 2013). While the majority of recipients include the elderly, the disabled, and children, many of these recipients are those that experienced fallout during the 2008 economic collapse or are under-employed, often due to a lack of access to healthy food, education and physical and mental health resources.

SNAP misconceptions!

Imagine this, the single mother of two that lives next door, a local farmer, your local store clerk or even your old college roommate could be receiving SNAP benefits. Economic crises can affect anyone.

There is widespread stigma that these funds only treat the symptoms of poverty. The truth is that SNAP offers the majority of its recipients and their families a safety net as they are struggling to re-enter the workforce and surviving on a limited income.  In reality SNAP actually incentivizes working longer hours and taking the time to search for better paying employment (CBPP:Chart Book).  About 80% of households that receive benefits have gross incomes below the poverty line ($23,550 for a family of four in 2012, and $11,500 for a person living alone) (cbpp).  SNAP recipients use this extra support to make ends meet; a clear sign of the vital importance of this nutrition assistance program.   Without this program, many children and elderly would go to bed hungry.

Why can SNAP recipients buy junk food with their benefits?”  Unfortunately the reason lies in the bureaucracy of the government and their interpretation of the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 (better known as the Farm Bill), which defines an eligible food as “any food or food product for home consumption and also includes seeds and plants which produce food for consumption by SNAP households.” Any change to this definition requires changes to the legislation (cbpp).  As a concerned citizens, you can ask your VA legislators to save SNAP and mandate the purchase of wholesome and nutritious foods (Contact your Virginia legislators).  To continue educating yourself on the importance of SNAP go to

What is the SNAP-Ed Program?

SNAP-Ed (SNAP-Education)  offers free classes and programs to youth, elderly and families through the Eat Smart, Move More campaign aimed at eating better with a limited budget by offering free classes and programs. Classes are offered on DVD, Video cassette or internet, in group classes (CookingMatters)for groups or an individual can receive One-on-One cooking classes in your home with an educator; coupled with family nutrition programs like 4-H School Nutrition Education, the Neighborhood SuperPantry Program and support for Community SNAP Gardens, SNAP-Ed focuses on three main behavioral outcomes; 1) eat more fruits and vegetables, 2) maintenance of an appropriate caloric balance and 3) an increase physical activity.To get up to date information check out the Virginia’s SNAP-Ed, Eat Smart, Move More Blog or link to their Facebook or Twitter (@VaFNP) account.

Find a SNAP-Ed Program Assistant near you.  Contact your local Virginia Cooperative Extension office. You may also contact Meredith Ledlie at

Where can I use SNAP?

SNAP can be used at any certified SNAP retailer, producer or vendor.  These range from corporate supermarkets to corner stores, farmers markets and market vendors. Many SNAP recipients do not realize that they can use their SNAP benefits—usually in the form of a card that can be swiped at an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) machine, much like a debit card—at many local farmers markets where they can access fresh whole foods for a reasonable cost.  Many markets and vendors offer purchasing incentives to SNAP recipients, allowing them to receive more goods, including produce, cheeses, eggs, and meats, in exchange for a SNAP dollar.

What can I buy with SNAP?

SNAP dollars can only be used for food or for plants and seedsto grow food for your household to eat.  Sales tax cannot be charged on items bought with SNAP benefits.SNAP benefits cannot be used to buy:

  • Any nonfood item including pet foods
  • Alcoholic beverages and tobacco
  • Vitamins and medicines
  • Hot prepared foods

What makes one eligible for SNAP/EBT assistance?

Eligibility for SNAP depends on things like the number of people in your household, income, and resources (cash, bank accounts, SSI, unemployment benefits).  To find out if you are eligible to receive SNAP benefits and to see how much you could receive, use the pre-screening tool.  Please note that the pre-screening tool is not an application for SNAP benefits.

Where can I APPLY for SNAP?

Access the Virginia State SNAP application here.

Do you not have internet? Remember you can always access the internet through your local library.