SNAP FAQ

 
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly the food stamp program, provides extra funds to low-income families to buy groceries. Here are a list of helpful questions about SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps or the Link Card.
 
Do I qualify?
How do I apply?
How long does it take to get benefits? What’s the process?
Doesn’t someone else need SNAP more than I do?
What if I’m not a citizen?
I already receive SNAP but have a question. Can you help?
How does SNAP/food stamps benefit our community?


 
Do I qualify?
Eligibility is based primarily on household size and income. Certain other rules may apply. Income allowance is higher for households with a member who is 60+, blind, or disabled. The experts on the Northern Illinois Food Bank SNAP Outreach team can determine your eligibility in less than 5 minutes. Call us toll-free at 844-600-SNAP (7627) or email snap@northernilfoodbank.org.
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How do I apply?
If you’d like to apply for food stamps (the Link card), you have several options and should choose whichever is most convenient for you. Northern Illinois Food Bank’s SNAP Outreach team is committed to serving people with dignity and helping them avoid long wait times and confusing rules. We help people apply in person, over the phone, or we can mail you a blank paper application. Contact us toll-free at 844-600-SNAP (7627) or email snap@northernilfoodbank.org for details. You can also apply online anytime via the State of Illinois’s website at http://abe.illinois.gov. Finally, you can go to your local public aid office directly and apply in person. Contact us for your nearest location.
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How long does it take to get benefits? What’s the process?
Filling out the application takes 20-45 minutes, depending on your family size. Once your application has been submitted, you will receive a phone call or written notice from the Department of Human Services (DHS) within 1 to 14 days for your “benefits interview.” A caseworker will ask you about who is in your household, your address, income, and expenses. After you speak with DHS, you will get a letter in the mail that tells you if you’ve been approved or denied.

If approved, the Link card comes in the mail within 30-45 days of applying and you can begin to use it at the store. You can continue to receive monthly food stamps on your Link card as long as you still qualify. To make sure you still qualify, DHS will mail you a form once or twice a year which you must fill out and send back. If you don’t, you will stop receiving benefits.
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Doesn’t someone else need SNAP more than I do?
Maybe, but by receiving SNAP benefits you are not taking benefits away from someone else. Eligibility for SNAP and benefit amount is based on who’s in your household, how much money you make, and what expenses you pay. If you qualify for the benefit, you should not feel uncomfortable accepting it: after all, we all need help from time to time! In Illinois, thousands of households qualify for the program that do not utilize it.
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What if I’m not a citizen?
Documented immigrants (also called Legal Permanent Residents) of 5 years or more may apply for food stamps. Undocumented residents are not eligible by law. However, undocumented adults can apply on behalf of children who are eligible. Refugees are eligible right away. Certain other rules apply. If you’re not sure about your situation, please call our toll-free SNAP Help Line at 844-600-SNAP (7627) or email snap@northernilfoodbank.org. Applying for or receiving SNAP benefits does not affect future citizenship or status. Receiving food stamps does not make a person a “public charge.”
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I already receive SNAP but have a question. Can you help?
If we can’t answer your question, we’ll put you in touch with someone who can! Give us a call on our toll-free SNAP Help Line at 844-600-SNAP (7627) or email snap@northernilfoodbank.org. Please note we cannot look up your case in the state system or make case changes on your behalf.
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How does SNAP/food stamps benefit our community?
Healthy families make healthy communities! SNAP recipients not only have better nutritional and educational outcomes but are better able to pay other bills. SNAP successfully targets our most vulnerable populations: in fact, 83% of SNAP dollars are spent in households where at least one member is a senior, disabled person, or a child. Finally, SNAP dollars go directly into grocery stores, helping local economies by creating demand for jobs and products. Check out Feeding America’s website for more.
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If you have any questions about the SNAP program, reach out to a member of Northern Illinois Food Bank’s SNAP Outreach Team! Call us toll-free at 844-600-SNAP (7627) or email snap@northernilfoodbank.org.