North Carolina Food Assistance
Food Stamps * Food Banks * Food Pantries * Soup Kitchens * WIC
School Meals * Special Milk * Summer Food * Senior Nutrition
In the State of North Carolina, there are many sources for help with food. The North Carolina Food and Nutrition Services, food banks, food pantries, and soup kitchens are all helping residents in need to cope with hunger and food insecurity.
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Learn more about
SNAP benefits a.k.a. Food Stamps.
Who is eligible for SNAP benefits (Food Stamps) in North Carolina?
How to apply for North Carolina Food Assistance?
How does North Carolina Food and Nutrition Services determine eligibility?
Approved! When and how do I get the Food Stamps benefits?
How much Food Stamps benefits do participants receive per month?
How and where to use Food Stamps benefits?
Food Stamp (SNAP benefits) in North Carolina
North Carolina Food and Nutrition Services (FNS)
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or the Food Stamps Program as it is known by the public, is a federal program that provides grants to the States for purpose of reducing hunger and malnutrition in all eligible households across the nation. SNAP helps provide healthy food to qualifying low-income families with children, elderly or disabled in each State of the USA, including North Carolina. Learn more about SNAP.
It is important to know that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is a federal entitlement program funded by U.S. Government grants. Any U.S. Citizen, even some legal alien residents will get free food assistance as long as they meet the SNAP eligibility guidelines. In other words, there is enough Supplemental Nutrition Assistance for every American that qualifies.
In North Carolina, the SNAP is known as North Carolina Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) and is administered by the Division of Social Services (DSS) under the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The Federal Government pays 100% of North Carolina SNAP Benefits with federal grants appropriated for SNAP. The SNAP federal grants also pay a share of the North Carolina SNAP administrative cost.
According to the North Carolina Division of Social Services, “The purpose of Food and Nutrition Services is to end hunger and improve nutrition and health. It helps eligible low-income households buy the food they need for a nutritionally adequate diet.”
Approx. of the total North Carolina population received Food Stamp Benefits in 2018
Recipients in June, 2018 of Food Stamps (SNAP) Benefits in North Carolina
Recipients in June, 2017 of Food Stamp (SNAP) Benefits in North Carolina
Who is Eligible for Food and Nutrition Services (Food Stamps) in North Carolina?
The eligibility rules and benefit amounts in North Carolina, like in other States, are based on a limited income, limited liquid resources, household size, and other requirements, some of them specific to each State. Most eligibility rules are determined by regulations issued by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and Nutrition Service.
The federal law allows States some flexibility when implementing SNAP on a State level. State agencies can adapt some of the food assistance program rules in order to meet the needs of the eligible, low‐income local population.
North Carolina Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) Program is designed for individuals and families with limited income resources, who compose a household, and purchase and prepare their meals together for home consumption. People living with roommates, people who are temporarily unemployed, or people who are homeless can also get food stamps if they meet specific eligibility guidelines.
For the purpose of the North Carolina Food and Nutrition Services, certain people must be included in on household account even if they purchase and prepare meals separately. Husbands and wives of any household member, their children under age 22 when living together, plus children younger than 18 who are dependents of an adult household member are all considered as a part of one household formation.
In North Carolina anyone with limited income and resources may apply for food stamps but, in general, to qualify for North Carolina FNS Benefits (Food Stamps), you must meet the following basic eligibility requirements:
- North Carolina Resident – must be a U.S. Citizen or a legal resident with SNAP eligible non-citizen status;
- Work Requirement – unless exempted, each able-bodied household member who is 16 to 60 year old must be registered to work, and accept a suitable employment offer;
- Resource Limits – no asset limits if you meet SNAP categorical eligibility, all others must have countable household assets limited to $2,250 or less ($3,250 or less for households containing a member who is disabled or 60 years of age or older);
- Income Limits – Income limits eligibility depends on household size and composition. Households with no elderly or disabled individuals must meet both standard gross (130% of FPL) and net income limits. Households with elderly or disabled individuals must meet only the net income limits (100% of FPL). Gross income includes wages, salaries, commissions, dividends, child support, self-employment income, unemployment compensation, social security benefits, and others.
Some North Carolina residents may be automatically or so-called categorically eligible for Food Stamps if they already participate in other means-tested assistance programs. Getting any benefits funded by federal grants from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) – Work First Family Assistance in NC or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) can make the applicant for FNS benefits categorically eligible, thus bypassing the standard income eligibility and asset eligibility rules.
Under the federal SNAP regulations, States do have to assign a gross income limit of 200% of the federal poverty line (FPL) or less in order to use any federal grant-funded benefit that can make Food Assistance applicants eligible. Please, contact your local DSS for more details on Food and Nutrition Services’ categorical eligibility.
See the table for Maximum Monthly Income (measured as the percentage of the federal poverty level – FPL) allowable for FNS Benefits Eligibility in State of North Carolina, as per household size:
Quick Eligibility Check
Use this Pre-Screening Tool to find out if you may be eligible to get North Carolina FNS Benefits (Food Stamps).
The screening allows interested in getting North Carolina food stamps to provide some basic information and find out if they are potentially eligible for benefits.
If you use this Pre-Screening Tool you will be notified immediately on the screen if you qualify after completing the questionnaire. This is pre-screening information, and you still have to make an application at your local North Carolina DSS office.
Even if you are unsure if you would qualify you still may be eligible for FNS Benefits and you should still apply. Division of Social Services (DSS) is the agency in North Carolina that can make the final determination regarding your Food and Nutrition Services application in this State and grant you benefits.
To figure out, before applying, if you'd qualify for food stamps benefits in your state you have to consider the following:
- Your Household size: How many people you live and buy food with? Count:
- anyone you live with and buy and make food with
- children under 22 years old and,
- elderly 60+ and disabled that you make food for.
- Your Income: How much money does your household make? This includes both:
- earned income - the money you make from jobs and
- unearned income - cash assistance, Social Security, unemployment insurance, child support, etc.
Who counts as a member of the household for SNAP eligibility?
In general, anyone who lives with you and you buy food with counts a member of your household.
Your children under 22 of age count as household members, even if they buy and make their own food.
But your tenant, for example, or your adult children that are over 22 of age do not count. They are not counted in the household number for the purpose of food stamp benefits qualification.
The elderly age of 60+ and disabled people count as household members if you buy and make food for them, or you buy and make food together. If they live with you, but they buy and make food separately, they do not count as household members.
See the updated table below for this fiscal year's income limits and monthly benefits (allotments).
What is the gross and net income limit that qualifies you for food stamps?
SNAP Max Income for Food Stamps
Oct. 1, 2019, through Sept. 30, 2020
(130% of poverty)
(100% of poverty)
|Each additional member||+$479||+$369||+$146|
Source: USDA, SNAP Income Eligibility Standards
What is Maximum North Carolina Food and Nutrition Benefit (Food Stamps)?
If approved, the North Carolina FNS benefit amounts depend on the household size and the amount of their net income. USDA has maximum SNAP benefit limits per month per household size. Check the table what are the maximum food stamp assistance monetary amounts a household can get. The dollar amounts of the food stamp benefits are called allotments.
How to Apply for Food and Nutrition Benefits (Food Stamps) in North Carolina?
In the State of North Carolina, applicants for Food and Nutrition Services can call or visit the local D SS and ask for an FNS Benefits application package, download the Application for Food and Nutrition Services, or apply online.
If you are to file a paper application, download and print the Application for Food and Nutrition Services form offered by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
To apply with the paper form, start answering the questions on the application and filling in the required information. If you do not have all the information that is needed to complete the FNS application, provide as much as you can – but you must include your name, address, social security number, and your signature for DSS to accept it. Mail or turn in your FNS Application to one of the local County DSS offices.
Find a Local Department of Social Services in your area or call: 1-866-719-0141
You can also apply for FNS Benefits online by visiting ePass Public Portal of NC FAST.
Before determining your Food and Nutrition Benefits eligibility a social worker will have to process the application and interview you.
After your application is submitted you will be contacted to complete an FNS eligibility interview. At the interview, you may need to provide some supporting documents that would help DSS workers determine your eligibility.
Within 30 days of the interview, if eligible, you will receive a notice stating how much food assistance benefits and for how long your household is eligible for before a review of the case is due.
The FNS Benefit amount depends on the household size and its net income – that is all countable income minus all allowable deductions.
If NC DSS finds you eligible for FNS Benefits, you will be entitled to receive food stamps from the date your signed application is received.
North Carolina Food and Nutrition Benefits Approval, Rules, Proofs Required
In addition to filing an application in the State of North Carolina, the process to determine your FNS eligibility includes an interview and information verification.
The North Carolina DHHS has a list eligibility requirements for each applicant may be required to provide acceptable form of documentation:
- Citizenship/Alien Status;
- Household Size/Composition;
- Student Status;
- Voluntary Quit;
- Work Registration/ABAWD Status;
- Controlled Substance Felons, and
- Previous Disqualifications (QC, Controlled Substance Felons, IPV’s, etc.)
- Utility Expenses;
- Mortgage or Rental Expenses;
- Property Taxes;
- Property Insurance;
- Medical Expenses;
- Child Care Expenses.
Additional information and proof may be required by your caseworker depending on your application and household situation. In case you are not able to provide all the information during the SNAP application interview, you may be given time to provide the required proof.
Applicants for FNS Benefits in North Carolina should get a response within 30 days from the date they submitted their application to the DSS. When start getting food stamps benefits, households must report any changes in their situation in a set by the agency period of time in order to assure their participation in the North Carolina Food and Nutrition Services Program.
Under the simplified reporting option, households are required to report changes in income between certification and scheduled reporting periods when total countable income rises above 130% of the poverty level or when work hours change for able‐bodied adults without dependents.
Food and Nutrition Services regulations require all non‐exempt household members to comply with work requirements. Work requirements include registering for work, not voluntarily quitting a job, and accepting a suitable employment offer for all FNS benefit recipients age 16 through 59 if they are not exempt. As per federal SNAP guidelines, individuals who fail to comply with work requirements without good cause are ineligible for program benefits and disqualified from food assistance for certain periods of time, depending on how many prior instances of non‐compliance there have been.
The law limits the SNAP benefits to 3 months in a 3-year period for all able-bodied adults between the ages of 18 through 49 without dependents, who are not working or participating in a work program for at least 20 hours each week.
As part of the SNAP federal grant assistance requirements, each State has to offer employment and training (E&T) program to its SNAP/FNS benefits recipients. Participants in such programs, where available, can get adult education, vocational training, job skills training for specific jobs, and work experience via short-term unpaid work assignments. The main goal of the work requirement is to help the food assistance benefits recipients get jobs, reduce or eliminate their dependency on the government benefits.
Call 1-866-719-0141 if you want to find more about the North Carolina Employment and Training Program offered to FNS recipients.
Approved! When and How Do I Get the Food and Nutrition Benefits?
North Carolina Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program provides the benefits via the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) system. The monetary benefits of the North Carolina SNAP benefits are transferred to the accounts of qualified beneficiaries and are accessible through a North Carolina EBT card. The North Carolina SNAP Benefits are deposited into the recipients’ accounts each month following the Benefit Issuance Schedule.
Benefits are made available from the 3rd to the 21th of every month, based on the last digit of the primary cardholder’s SSN:
SSN ends in 1 = benefits available on the 3rd of the month
SSN ends in 2 = benefits available on the 5th of the month
SSN ends in 3 = benefits available on the 7th of the month
SSN ends in 4 = benefits available on the 9th of the month
SSN ends in 5 = benefits available on the 11th of the month
SSN ends in 6 = benefits available on the 13th of the month
SSN ends in 7 = benefits available on the 15th of the month
SSN ends in 8 = benefits available on the 17th of the month
SSN ends in 9 = benefits available on the 19th of the month
SSN ends in 0 = benefits available on the 21st of the month
If you have any question regarding your EBT Account or EBT Card call North Carolina EBT Customer Service: 888-622-7328
How and Where to Use the Food and Nutrition Benefits?
North Carolina SNAP benefits are provided via the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) system. The monetary benefits of the North Carolina SNAP are transferred into the accounts of qualified beneficiaries and are accessible through the North Carolina EBT Card. Households and individuals can use their EBT cards and spend the benefits like cash at any North Carolina grocery stores and farmers’ markets that are authorized by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to accept SNAP (food stamp) benefits.
Check these North Carolina Food Stamps Stores Near You that are authorized to take EBT cards for purchasing of SNAP-eligible food items. Eligible food items are any food to be eaten at home by people, including baby food, non-alcoholic beverages, and seasonings. Seeds and plants to grow food for your own family’s consumption are also allowed to be purchased with food stamp benefits. You cannot buy non-grocery items with food stamp benefits, such as cleaning products, pet food, paper products, alcohol, or tobacco.
I Need Food Assistance Now. It is an Emergency!
Some households may get Expedited Services – that is getting Food Stamp Benefits within 7 calendar days if your household has less than $150 in monthly gross income and liquid resources (cash, checking or savings accounts) of $100 or less; or your rent/mortgage and utilities are more than your household’s combined monthly income and liquid resources, or a member of your household is a migrant or seasonal farm worker. In order to get expedite assistance, if you qualify for it, provide all the required information and proof as soon as possible. Call 1-866-719-0141 for more information on North Carolina Food and Nutrition Services Program.
North Carolina Food Assistance Program
Find more about the North Carolina Food Assistance Program
Search for Food Assistance by County and Town
Food Banks in North Carolina
North Carolina food banks play an important role in the overall North Carolina food assistance effort to end hunger and food insecurity throughout the State of North Carolina.
Their main objective is to collect food from various sources like wholesale organizations, grocery stores, and farms who have food in excess and are willing to donate.
Food banks then, sort, store, and distribute donated food to local soup kitchens, shelters, and food pantries.
The Food Bank Association of North Carolina is such a non-profit organization that works to alleviate hunger in North Carolina.
North Carolina Food Banks
Food Pantries in North Carolina
Food pantries offer food directly to people that need it and who have the means to cook it. They usually receive food from local food banks and in turn distribute it to low-income individuals and households at no cost.
Food pantries are typically located in facilities where received food can be stored and handled in a safe and sanitary manner.
Each food pantry serves a designated local area and most of them require prior registration and approval before food can be distributed to a particular individual or a family.
Soup Kitchens In North Carolina
Soup kitchens serve cooked meals on-site to needy people at no cost. Like food pantries, they normally receive their food from local food banks.
Soup kitchens take care mostly of homeless people and people who do not have the means to cook for themselves.
They require storage, cleaning, and cooking equipment as they have to do food preparation, serving, and cleaning after the meals.
Food pantries are typically located in facilities where received food can be stored and handled in a safe and sanitary manner.
Each food pantry serves a designated local area and most of them require prior registration and approval before food can be served to a particular individual or a family.
WIC Program in North Carolina
North Carolina Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides healthy foods, breastfeeding support, nutrition education, health care referrals to North Carolina pregnant women, new mothers, infants, and young children during times of important growth.
North Carolina Women, Infants, and Children Program
School Meals in North Carolina
School meals in North Carolina are offered mainly through the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program.
The North Carolina school meals programs make nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free meals available to school children each school day in the year.
School meals nutritional standards are based on the recommendation from the Institute of Medicine and the U.S. Government and teachers have reported that students perform better in class if they get regular meals.
Children getting school breakfast also had significantly reduced absence and tardiness rates, according to a Tufts University study.
North Carolina School Lunch Program | North Carolina School Breakfast Program
Special Milk Program in North Carolina
North Carolina Special Milk Program offers milk to children in schools, childcare institutions, and eligible camps. Any child in a school or institution that participates in the Special Milk Program can get milk.
Schools may elect to offer free milk to low-income children. In order to qualify for North Carolina Special Milk, the child must be a resident of the State of North Carolina.
North Carolina Special Milk Program
Summer Food Program in North Carolina
Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) is another North Carolina food assistance program that provides free meals and snacks to help low-income North Carolina children get nutritious meals in the summertime.
The Summer Food Service Program is a federal program that provides grants to local sponsors who want to combine a food service with a summer activity program.
The funding provided by SFSP ensures that North Carolina children in low-income areas continue to receive nutritious meals during long school vacations when they do not have access to school lunch or breakfast.
North Carolina Summer Food Service Program
Senior Nutrition in North Carolina
North Carolina Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) provides low-income seniors with special checks to buy fresh, nutritious fruits, vegetables, and herbs from authorized farmers’ markets. To qualify for North Carolina senior nutrition special checks, the applicants must be 60 years of age or older and their gross household income must not exceed certain limits.
An application must be completed for each person in the household that wants to apply for the SFMNP benefits. Once approved, each beneficiary must reapply every year to continue participating in the North Carolina Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program. Learn more about how the senior nutrition program works.
North Carolina Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program
Sources: State Agencies, FNS, USDA