Pennsylvania Food Assistance
Food Stamps * Food Banks * Food Pantries * Soup Kitchens * WIC
School Meals * Special Milk * Summer Food * Senior Nutrition
In the State of Pennsylvania, there are many sources for help with food. The Pennsylvania Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), 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 Pennsylvania?
How to apply for Pennsylvania Food Assistance?
How does Pennsylvania Department of Human 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 Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
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 Pennsylvania. SNAP also provides education about nutrition to help recipients choose foods that enhance their health and well being.
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. Learn more about SNAP.
In Pennsylvania, the SNAP is administered by the Department of Human Services (DHS). The SNAP eligibility determination and benefits issuance are provided by the DHS and County Assistance offices across the state. The Federal Government oversees the State operation and pays 100% of Pennsylvania SNAP Benefits with federal grants appropriated for SNAP. The SNAP federal grants also pay a share of the Pennsylvania SNAP administrative cost.
The main purpose of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is to help end hunger and improve the nutrition and health of low-income households. The SNAP provides monthly benefits to low-income Pennsylvania households that help them buy the food needed for a nutritionally adequate diet. According to the DHS, “These benefits are used to buy food and help eligible low-income households in Pennsylvania obtain more nutritious diets by increasing their food purchasing power at grocery stores and supermarkets.”
Approx. of the total Pennsylvania population received Food Stamp Benefits in 2018
Recipients in June, 2018 of Food Stamps (SNAP) Benefits in Pennsylvania
Recipients in June, 2017 of Food Stamp (SNAP) Benefits in Pennsylvania
Who is Eligible for SNAP Benefits (Food Stamps) in Pennsylvania?
The eligibility rules and benefit amounts in Pennsylvania, like in other States, are based on a limited income, limited liquid resources, household size, and other requirements. 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 SNAP food assistance program rules in order to meet the needs of the eligible, low‐income local population.
Pennsylvania Supplemental Nutrition Assistance 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.
For the purpose of the SNAP, certain people must be included in one 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 Pennsylvania anyone with limited income and resources may apply for food stamps but, in general, to qualify for Pennsylvania SNAP Benefits you must meet the following eligibility requirements:
- Pennsylvania 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;
- Resources Limit – Households with gross incomes over 160% of the federal poverty line (FPL) are not categorically eligible for SNAP benefits if their liquid resources exceed $5,500, (200% of FPL and more than $9,000 of liquid resources are the numbers for households that have elderly or disabled member);
- Income Limits – Income limits eligibility depends on the household size and composition and are based on the current federal poverty levels. Gross income includes wages, salaries, commissions, dividends, child support, self-employment income, unemployment compensation, social security benefits, and others. Household net income is computed by deducting certain allowed expenses from gross income. The resulting numbers must fall below the net income dollar amounts listed in the table below for your household to get food assistance benefits. This dollar amount depends on the number of people in your household.
See the table with Pennsylvania SNAP Benefits income limits per household size below.
Most Pennsylvania residents are automatically or so-called categorically eligible for SNAP Benefits if they already participate in other means-tested assistance programs. Getting any benefits or services (e.g. getting pamphlet or brochure) from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) federal block grant program or receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) can make the applicant for SNAP categorically eligible, thus bypassing the federal guidelines for standard limits on income and assets.
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 are the Dollar Amounts of Pennsylvania SNAP Benefits?
If the applicant is approved, the Pennsylvania SNAP Benefit amounts depend on the household size and the amount of their net income. USDA has maximum food stamp benefit limits per month per household size. Check the what are the maximum food stamp assistance monetary amounts. The food assistance dollar amounts are called allotments.
How to Apply for SNAP Benefits (Food Stamps) in Pennsylvania?
To apply for SNAP benefits in Pennsylvania download and print the “Pennsylvania Application for Benefits” form offered by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services.
In addition to SNAP food assistance, the same application form can be used to apply for SelectPlan for Women, Health care coverage, and Cash assistance.
More than one assistance program in an application is a common practice by a lot of the States since most of the people in need of food stamps are likely to be in need of cash and other assistance and services.
Applicants for SNAP in the State of Pennsylvania can file an application in person, through an authorized representative, by fax, by mail, or online. The SNAP application may be submitted to any Pennsylvania local County Assistance Office (CAO).
If you are to file a paper form – just fill out all required information on the Application for Benefits and mail or turn it in any local County Assistance Office.
If you do not have all the information that is needed to complete the SNAP application, provide as much as you can – but you must include your name, address, social security number, and your signature for the DHS office to accept it. All required information and its verification can be provided later at the interview or upon request.
If you are eligible, your SNAP Benefits will start from the date the DHS receives your application. However, if you provide more information, it will help DHS determine your eligibility more quickly.
The application process includes a SNAP eligibility interview and information verification. After you have submitted your application, the DHS office will contact you to set up an interview and verify the information on your application. If you are elderly, disabled individual, or unable to go to the office due to a hardship, call the DHS to request your SNAP eligibility interview conducted over the phone.
At the interview, you will meet with a DHS caseworker who will go over the information on your application and verify the required supporting documentation and proofs. You will also receive information from the worker or other staff about job requirements/opportunities and your responsibilities.
Within 30 days of the interview, if eligible, you will receive a notice stating how much food assistance benefit and for how long your household is eligible for before a review of the case is due, along with reporting requirements.
The SNAP benefit amount depends on the household size and its net income – that is all countable income minus all allowable deductions.
If Pennsylvania DHS finds you eligible for SNAP benefits, you will be entitled to receive food stamps from the date your signed application was received.
Pennsylvania SNAP applicants also have the option to apply for SNAP benefits online using the Pennsylvania COMPASS – an online application system that enables users to apply and manage their benefits online
Pennsylvania SNAP Benefits Verification of Information, Rules, Approval
The DHS Office has to interview you and verify the provided information before determining if the household is eligible for Food Stamp Benefits.
Here are some examples of information and documentary evidence that you may be required to provide at the SNAP eligibility interview:
- Your identification;
- Proof of your income
- Money paid to you for rent
- Sick benefits
- Money paid to you for room or board
- Money earned from babysitting
- Money paid to you for loans
- Money for training
- Worker’s compensation
- Guardian fees
- Social Security
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Union pay
- Veteran Benefits
- IRA/401k/profit sharing
- Trust fund
- Personal account or savings account
- U.S. Savings Bonds
- Boat, snowmobile, camper
- Checking account
- Christmas or vacation club
- Motorcycle, ATV
- Certificate of deposit
- Stocks and bonds
- Rent or mortgage
- Condominium fees
- Homeowners property insurance
- Property taxes
- Telephone bill
- Utility bills
- Medical expenses
- Other expenses
- Social Security numbers for everyone in your household who wants benefits; and
- Proof of your legal immigration status (for persons who are not U.S. citizens) for all in the household who want benefits.
This is not a complete list and depending on the case the DHS caseworker may request additional types of proof and application supporting documents.
Applicants for SNAP benefits in Pennsylvania should get a response within 30 days from the date they submitted their application to the DHS office. When start getting food stamps benefits, households must report any changes of their situation in a set period of time in order to assure their participation in the Pennsylvania Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Under the simplified reporting option, households are required to report changes in income between certification and scheduled reporting periods.
SNAP 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. As per federal SNAP guidelines, individuals who fail to comply with SNAP work requirements without good cause are ineligible for program benefits and disqualified from SNAP 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 18-49 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 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 stamp recipients get jobs, reduce or eliminate their dependency on the government benefits.
In Pennsylvania the DHS is responsible for assisting and directing persons in E&T activities which enable them to achieve or maintain economic self support. The State runs a job search training component that prepares participants for job search by teaching interview techniques and resume writing. Additional activities include workshops and seminars. These services are offered through Pennsylvania’s local County Assistance Offices or its E&T partner agencies.
Approved! When and How Do I Get the Food Stamp Benefits?
Pennsylvania SNAP provides the food assistance benefits via the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) system. The monetary benefits of Pennsylvania SNAP are transferred to the accounts of qualified beneficiaries and are accessible through the Pennsylvania Access Card.
Benefits are made available over the first 10 business days of every month, based on the last digit of the client’s case number:
Case numbers ending in: 1 = benefits are issued on the 1st
Case numbers ending in: 2 = benefits are issued on the 2nd
Case numbers ending in: 3 = benefits are issued on the 3rd
Case numbers ending in: 4 = benefits are issued on the 4th
Case numbers ending in 5 = benefits are issued on the 5th
Case numbers ending in: 6 = benefits are issued on the 6th
Case numbers ending in: 7 = benefits are issued on the 7th
Case numbers ending in: 8 = benefits are issued on the 8th
Case numbers ending in: 9 = benefits are issued on the 9th
Case numbers ending in: 0 = benefits are issued on the 10th
*Cash benefits are made available to each recipient twice during every
If you have any question regarding your EBT Account or EBT Card call Pennsylvania EBT Customer Service: 1-888-328-7366
How and Where to Use Food Stamp Benefits?
When approved, Pennsylvania SNAP beneficiaries will get Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards – The Pennsylvania Access Card. The monetary benefits of the Pennsylvania SNAP are transferred into the accounts of qualified beneficiaries and are accessible through the Pennsylvania EBT Access Card. Households and individuals can use their EBT cards and spend the benefits like cash at any Pennsylvania grocery stores and farmers’ markets that are authorized by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to accept SNAP (food stamp) benefits.
Check these Pennsylvania 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 Assistance 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 farmworker. In order to get expedite assistance, if you qualify, provide all required information and proof as soon as possible. Call 1-800-692-7462 for more information on Pennsylvania Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Pennsylvania Food Assistance Program
Find more about the Pennsylvania Food Assistance Program
Search for Food Assistance by County and Town
Food Banks in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania food banks play an important role in the overall Pennsylvania food assistance effort to end hunger and food insecurity throughout the State of Pennsylvania.
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 Pennsylvania is such a non-profit organization that works to alleviate hunger in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania Food Banks
Food Pantries in Pennsylvania
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 Pennsylvania
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.
WIC Program in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides healthy foods, breastfeeding support, nutrition education, health care referrals to Pennsylvania pregnant women, new mothers, infants, and young children during times of important growth.
School Meals in Pennsylvania
School meals in Pennsylvania are offered mainly through the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program.
The Pennsylvania 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.
Special Milk Program in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania 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 Pennsylvania Special Milk, the child must be a resident of the State of Pennsylvania.
Summer Food Program in Pennsylvania
Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) is another Pennsylvania food assistance program that provides free meals and snacks to help low-income Pennsylvania 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 Pennsylvania 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.
Senior Nutrition in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania 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 Pennsylvania 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 Pennsylvania Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program. Learn more about how the senior nutrition program works.
Sources: State Agencies, FNS, USDA