How to get groceries with SNAP benefits or food stamps

How to get groceries with SNAP

26/May/20 / 23:16

Everyone deserves to have access to fresh and nutritious groceries. But here at the Food Bank, we know our neighbors may face many challenges to putting food on the table, from competing expenses to unexpected bills.

One way to stretch your budget further is to get groceries using SNAP. Here’s more about what SNAP is, who qualifies to receive benefits, and how SNAP can help feed families and individuals throughout Northern Illinois and beyond.


What is SNAP & Is it the same as Food Stamps?


SNAP stands for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as Food Stamps), and is a federal program that helps millions of Americans put food on the table. Implemented on a state level, SNAP provides benefits for families and individuals to buy groceries. In Illinois, the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) oversees SNAP and manages 75 offices across the state called FCRCs (Family Community Resource Centers, more widely known as DHS offices) that accept and process SNAP applications.


How do I apply for SNAP? How do I know if I am eligible to receive benefits?


Applying for SNAP and other assistance programs can sometimes feel daunting, and some people may get discouraged before even trying. That’s why the Food Bank’s SNAP Outreach Team is here to help with the application process. By shedding light on applying for SNAP and what resources are available to help, we hope neighbors will feel more confident and be encouraged to seek assistance from this program.


There are several ways you can apply for SNAP:




SNAP Application Process


The application process can take as little as 30 minutes. The questions asked about you and your household will help IDHS evaluate whether or not you are eligible for SNAP benefits, and – if you are eligible – the amount your household will receive each month.

You should be prepared to provide:

  • The number of individuals in your household
  • Information about the individuals in your household (date of birth, social security number, etc.)
  • Information about your household’s income, bills and other expenses

After your application has been submitted, your local DHS office will begin processing it, and will follow up with you regarding the status of your application in 1 to 14 days. A decision will be made regarding your application by 30 days after the initial submission. At that time, you should receive correspondence in the mail letting you know if your household has been approved or denied for SNAP.

If you are approved, you will receive an EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) card, also known as the Link card in Illinois. Your SNAP benefits will be loaded here monthly, and when you and your family are out shopping for groceries, you will insert the EBT/Link card into the card reader just like a debit card. When prompted, you will select EBT as the card type and input your PIN.


How can SNAP help my family?


SNAP benefits can be used to buy groceries for your household, enabling your family to use any other income you may have toward additional living expenses such as rent, transportation or healthcare.

SNAP can be used to purchase:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Meat, poultry and fish
  • Dairy products
  • Breads and cereals
  • Other food such as snack foods and non-alcoholic beverages
  • Seeds and plants, which produce food for the household to eat

SNAP CANNOT be used to buy:

  • Beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes or tobacco
  • Vitamins, medicines and supplements; if an item has a Supplement Facts label, it is considered a supplement and is not eligible for SNAP purchase
  • Live animals (except shellfish, fish removed from water, and animals slaughtered prior to pick-up from the store)
  • Hot foods
  • Prepared foods fit for immediate consumption
  • Any nonfood items such as pet food, cleaning supplies, paper products, household supplies, hygiene items, or cosmetics
Additional Resources

Still have questions? You can reach our SNAP Outreach team at 844-600-SNAP (7627) or snap@northernilfoodbank.org. Our team can help answer any additional questions you may have, and help you with the SNAP application process.

You can also visit the Illinois Department of Human Services website to learn more.

**NEW in June 2020: Illinois SNAP recipients can now use SNAP benefits to purchase groceries online. See Governor Pritzker’s recent press release here for more information about this development.

How You Can Help:


  • Volunteer at one of our Centers in Geneva, Rockford or Park City sorting and packing food
  • Donate to help us solve hunger in your community – every $1 donated helps provide $8 of groceries.


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