Fill the Fridge, Minnesota: A SNAP FAQ

In Minnesota, food resources are available for those who need help increasing their grocery budgets and filling their fridges, even more so today during the COVID-19 pandemic. We know that discovering and applying for SNAP can be intimidating so we’ve responded to some frequently asked questions about the program. Start here on your path to greater food access:

What is SNAP?

A modest, monthly financial benefit that empowers you to purchase healthy, nutritious food at your local grocery and convenience stores, farmer’s markets and even online through Walmart and Amazon delivery. Benefits are received through an EBT card, which you can use like a debit card.

It’s a Federal government program (formerly known as Food Stamps) that’s run by the State of Minnesota’s Department of Human Services at your local county level.

Is SNAP for me?

It might be, and there’s no risk or penalty in seeing if you’re eligible. Around 33% of Minnesotans are eligible but have not applied for SNAP.

Currently, half a million Minnesotans participate in SNAP, and one in four of us live with someone who has used SNAP at some point in their life. Whatever moment in life brings you to SNAP, it’s a program that will help when you need it (nine months is the average length of enrollment). 

Am I eligible? How do I apply for SNAP?

First you need to learn if you’re eligible. Eligibility is based on your household’s income. The amount of money you get for groceries is based on your income, expenses, and the number of people in your household. You can get started with the screening process using our SNAP Referral Tool and a SNAP Outreach Specialist from our team will follow up with you.

After seeing if you’re eligible, you will apply online through the State of Minnesota, or with help from one of our SNAP Outreach Specialists, who assist thousands of Minnesotans with SNAP applications each year. Your county human services office will process the application and conduct an interview to verify your information, like income and housing costs. The county will also notify you when your application has been approved or denied (usually within 30 days), though sooner for emergency situations. Our team will help you every step of the way.

How does SNAP help me buy food and groceries?

Once approved, you will receive a plastic EBT card in the mail. It works like a debit card and is accepted at most stores, farmer’s markets, and some online retailers. SNAP EBT cards can be used to buy most food (except for hot or prepared food items) and cannot be used for other necessities like dish soap or toilet paper. And you can’t draw cash out of SNAP funds on an EBT card.

Your benefits will be credited to your EBT account each month, meaning your card will be automatically reloaded and ready to use. This also means that if your circumstances or income change, your benefit may change, and our SNAP Outreach Specialists will assist you with any changes or re-certifications.

If I apply for SNAP, am I taking resources away from other people?

No! The program can accommodate all Minnesotans who are eligible and in fact, not everyone who is eligible applies. The money you’ll spend on groceries goes to your local grocery store—fueling the economy at a time when it’s needed most. For every $1 of SNAP benefits spent, more than $1.70 is generated in local community spending.

What’s SNAP good for?

In the short term, SNAP allows you to stretch your food budget and fill your fridge with fresh, nutritious food. Good food keeps you healthy and the money you spend will support local businesses.

Research has shown that pregnant women who receive SNAP are at a reduced risk of having a baby born with a low birth weight. Health benefits of SNAP continue later in life, too. Individuals who had access to SNAP in early childhood have a lower risk of obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes as adults. Access to SNAP also improves high school graduation rates!

Will SNAP meet all my food needs? What if I’m not eligible for SNAP?

SNAP won’t cover all your food needs, as it’s intended to supplement and help stretch your food budget further. But the good news is that there are so many food assistance options available to you, whether you’re eligible for and enrolled in SNAP or not:

Currently, there are 816 food shelves, meal programs, food distributions, discount grocery stores, and more across all 87 Minnesota counties. You can use this interactive and regularly updated map to find the sites closest to you.

For a full list of local food resources and to apply for SNAP so you can fill your fridge, visit our resources page.