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Food Stamps

Excerpted from "Social Security Handbook". See the up-to-date, official Social Security Handbook at

2108. Food Stamps

2108.1 What are food stamps?

Food stamps are coupons, issued by the States under the Food Stamp Act of 1977, as amended. They are used to assist SSI recipients in the purchase of food and other necessary household items.

2108.2 How does a SSI applicant/recipient apply for food stamps?

Social Security offices notify you as a SSI applicant/ recipient of the benefits under the food stamp program and make a food stamp application available to you. Social Security offices can also take your food stamp application if:

  1. Your household is potentially eligible for SSI;

  2. You are not receiving food stamps; and

  3. You do not have a pending food stamp application.

Food stamp applications may be taken with initial SSI claims or upon redetermination. You have the choice of applying at a local Social Security office or at a State food stamp office.

2108.3 How is food stamp eligibility determined?

Food stamp eligibility is based on your household circumstances, not on your individual circumstances. Eligibility for food stamps is determined by the food stamp agency.

For food stamp purposes, a SSI household is a household in which all members are either receiving SSI or have a pending SSI application. Social Security offices forward the food stamp applications and any supporting documents to the local food stamp offices within one day of taking the application.

2108.4 Do you live in California?

If you are a SSI applicant living in California, you receive a cash payment with your supplementary payment instead of food stamps. States that administer food stamps in this manner are called food stamp "cash-out" States.

Last Revised: March, 2001

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