Can I Go to a Food Bank if I Receive SSI/SSDI Benefits?

Published on: May 6, 2020

The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak didn’t just disrupt businesses—it has put many Americans who rely on access to inexpensive sources of food at risk because of business closures and changes in the schedules of food programs.

Even before the outbreak, many people on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) programs wondered if they could receive food assistance benefits or go to a food bank on top of their SSI/SSDI benefits.

Before we answer that question, it’s important to know how food banks work.

How Do Food Banks Work?

Feeding America defines a food bank as: “a non-profit organization that collects and distributes food to hunger-relief charities.” While different food banks may work in different ways, they generally acquire and distribute food on the behalf of other organizations—like a kind of warehouse for food.

The actual handout of food happens at what Feeding America calls “food pantries.” These are the organizations that hand out food. However, most people call the places handing out meals food banks.

Who Can Go to a Food Bank?

That depends.

Some food banks work with federal assistance programs to provide food. For example, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which was formerly known as food stamps, uses state-issued cards that food and nutrition assistance programs may take.

Other programs may use rules set by the individual charity handing out food. So, it’s important to find local food banks and ask them about their rules directly. You can often find information about local food charities by looking for “food banks near me” online—or you can find a list of Florida food banks in the next section.

Where Can I Find Florida Food Banks?

Looking for food banks during COVID-19 or other crises? If you’re a Florida resident, you can find a current list of food bank locations on the Feeding Florida website. As of April 30, 2020, there are twelve different food banks on the list. Here are the names, website links, and locations of these food banks as listed on the Feeding Florida site:

How Does Social Security Affect Eligibility for Food Stamps?

If you’re receiving SSI benefits (or SSDI benefits), you may be eligible for the SNAP program. However, there are certain eligibility requirements that you have to meet before you can apply for food and nutrition assistance under SNAP.

Some key requirements for meeting SNAP supplemental income for food requirements include:

  • Meeting the resource limit as a household. This means owning less than $2,250 in resources (or less than $3,500 if someone in the household is over 60 or is disabled).
  • Being unable to work or joining certain employment or training programs. For an “able-bodied adult without dependents (ABAWD)” between 18 and 49 years of age, SNAP assistance is only available for three months in a three-year period. But, for those who are not able to work because of various conditions, or are in certain state-sponsored employment/training programs, this time limit can be lifted.
  • Everyone in the household must have applied for a Social Security Number. SNAP requires applicants and their households to have filed for Social Security Numbers.

As the note in the resource limit above might indicate, being on SSI or SSDI because of a disability might not make it more difficult to qualify for SNAP. In fact, the Social Security office will often help you apply, and if a member of your household is disabled, you may have an easier time applying (assuming your SSI/SSDI benefits don’t put you over the resource limit).

How Do I Apply for the SNAP Program?

Normally, you would travel directly to your closest SNAP office to apply for SNAP benefits. However, with the coronavirus crisis closing many government offices, you may want to apply online for benefits instead.

On the interactive map from the link, you can click on Florida to find Florida’s SNAP application. If you’re reading this from another state of the U.S., you can use the interactive map to find your state’s specific SNAP site and application process.

Need help navigating the complexities of applying for supplemental income and nutrition assistance programs? Reach out to the team at Disability Experts of Florida. We’re here to help you.

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