Illinois Food Assistance
Food Stamps * Food Banks * Food Pantries * Soup Kitchens * WIC
School Meals * Special Milk * Summer Food * Senior Nutrition
In the State of Illinois, there are many sources for help with food. Illinois Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, 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 Illinois?
How to apply for Illinois Food Assistance?
How does Illinois Division of Family & Community Services (FCS) 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 Illinois
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 Illinois. 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 Illinois, the SNAP is known as Illinois Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and is administered by the Division of Family & Community Services (FCS) under the Illinois Department of Human Services. The Federal Government pays 100% of Illinois Food Stamp Benefits with federal grants appropriated for SNAP. The SNAP federal grants also pay a share of the Illinois SNAP administrative cost.
According to the Illinois Department of Human Services, “The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (formerly Food Stamps) helps low-income people and families buy the food they need for good health.”
Approx. of the total Illinois population received Food Stamp Benefits in 2018
Recipients in June, 2018 of Food Stamps (SNAP) Benefits in Illinois
Recipients in June, 2017 of Food Stamp (SNAP) Benefits in Illinois
Who is Eligible for SNAP (Food Stamps) in Illinois?
The eligibility rules and benefit amounts in Illinois, 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.
Illinois Food 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 Illinois SNAP, everyone who lives together and purchases and prepares food together is considered as a part of one household formation. The definition includes husbands and wives, and their children under age 22 when living together, even if they purchase and prepare meals separately.
In Illinois anyone with limited income and resources may apply for food stamps but, in general, to qualify for Illinois SNAP (Food Stamp) Benefits you must meet the following eligibility requirements:
- Illinois 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 must work or participate in an employment and training program, registered to work, and accept a suitable employment offer;
- Income Limits – Income limits eligibility depends on household size and composition. Households with no elderly (age 60 or older) or disabled individuals must meet gross income limits that do not exceed 130% of the federal poverty level (FPL). Households with elderly or disabled individuals must have a gross income that is less than 200% of the established federal poverty line, the FPL. Gross income includes wages, salaries, commissions, dividends, child support, self-employment income, unemployment compensation, social security benefits, etc..
Illinois SNAP Program has special rules for elderly or disabled applicants and beneficiaries. Illinois households with disabled or elderly members may qualify for food stamp benefits regardless of the amount of gross income. In such cases, when gross incomes are over 200% of the poverty line, those households must have liquid assets of $3,250 or less, in order to qualify for SNAP benefits.
Some Illinois residents may be automatically or so-called categorically eligible for Food Stamps if they already participate in other means-tested assistance programs. Getting benefits from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) federal block grant or receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) can make the applicant for SNAP Benefits categorically eligible, thus bypassing the 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 TANF-funded benefit that can make Food Assistance applicants eligible.
Quick Eligibility Check
Use this Pre-Screening Tool to find out if you may be eligible to get Illinois SNAP Benefits (Food Stamps). Although you will be notified immediately if you qualify after completing the questionnaire you still have to make an application at your local Illinois DHS Office. There are other federal and state-specific requirements that must be met for Food Stamp Benefits applicants in different situations.
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 Maximum Illinois SNAP (Food Stamps) Benefits?
If approved, the Illinois SNAP 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 below what are the maximum food stamp assistance monetary amounts. The dollar amounts of the food stamp benefits are called allotments. See the table column about Max Food Assistance Benefit per month in dollars for each size of the household.
How to Apply for SNAP Benefits (Food Stamps) in Illinois?
In Illinois, one application is used to apply for Cash Assistance, Medical Assistance, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Benefits. Applicants can get the application online or from the local Illinois DHS offices. The applicant needs to fill out all the required information on the application and return it to the office.
You can print the Illinois Application for Cash Assitance – Medical Assistance – Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), read the questions and complete all required information, sign, and turn your application into the local Illinois DHS Office where you live. If you need help call: 1-800-843-6154.
You can go into the local Illinois DHS Office and apply for SNAP benefits while you are there. A DHS employee will ask you questions pertinent to SNAP eligibility and enter your answers into a computer. In the end you will be given a computer printout with your answers on it. When you sign it – this becomes your official application for SNAP benefits. In case you are physically unable to come into the local Illinois DHS office, an application can be mailed to you upon request. A caseworker can interview you over the phone.
If Illinois DHS finds you eligible for SNAP benefits, you will be eligible to receive food stamps from the date your signed application is received.
If you do not have all the information, provide as much as you can, but you must include your name, social security number, what you are applying for, and your signature. The DHS Office has to accept the application with the current date. You can provide the rest of the information later.
In addition to the interview, you may need to provide some supporting documents that would help DHS Office 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.
You may also apply for Illinois SNAP Benefits online via the ABE website. Applicants online may also check their eligibility and apply for Cash Assistance or Medical Assistance.
As noted, the Illinois Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program application must be processed within 30 days from the date of filing. If your household is approved, you will start receiving SNAP benefits from the date the office received your signed application. The SNAP benefit amounts depend on the household size and its net income – that is all countable income minus all allowable deductions.
Illinois SNAP Benefits Approval, Rules, Proofs Required
The DHS Office has to verify the provided information and interview you before determining if the household is eligible for SNAP Benefits. Here are some examples of information that may be needed at the SNAP application interview:
- Proof of your identity
- Proof of your citizenship such as birth certificate, U.S. passport, hospital record, etc.
- Immigration papers for persons applying for benefits, who are not U.S. citizens
- Social security numbers for persons applying for benefits
- Proof of income for each household member (check stubs, award letters for social security or veterans administration, unemployment benefits, contributions from family or friends, child support, etc.)
Additional information and proof may be required depending upon your situation. In case you are not able to provide all the information during the SNAP application interview, you will be given time to provide the required proof.
Applicants for SNAP benefits in Illinois should get a response within 30 days from the date they submitted their application to the local DHS Office. Households cannot receive food stamps assistance from more than one State in a month. When start getting food stamps benefits, households must report any changes in their situation in a 6-months period in order to assure their participation in the Illinois Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
SNAP regulations require all non‐exempt household members to comply with work requirements. Work requirements include registering for work, participating in an employment and training (E&T) or workfare program if assigned to one by the State agency, not voluntarily quitting a job 30 or more hours per week and accepting a suitable employment offer. 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 18-50 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 E&T program is to help Illinois food stamp recipients get jobs, reduce or eliminate their dependency on the government benefits. Call 1-800-843-6154 to find more about Illinois Employment and Training Program.
Approved! When and How Do I Get the SNAP Benefits?
Illinois Food Stamp Program provides the SNAP benefits via the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) system. The monetary benefits of the Illinois Food Stamps are transferred to the accounts of qualified beneficiaries and are accessible through an Illinois Link card, a debit card, which is issued to anyone approved for SNAP. The Illinois SNAP Benefits are deposited into the recipients’ accounts each month following the Benefit Issuance Schedule.
Illinois SNAP Benefits are made available on the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 13th, 17th, and 20th of every month, based on a combination of the type of case and the case name. Recipients may obtain information about eligibility and benefit availability by calling the DHS Help Line at 1-800-843-6154.
If you have any question regarding your EBT Account or EBT Card call Illinois EBT Customer Service: 1-800-678-5465
How and Where to Use the SNAP Benefits?
When approved, food stamp beneficiaries will get the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards – Illinois Link Card. The beneficiaries can use their cards at any SNAP (Food Stamps) approved grocery stores and Farmers’ Markets that are authorized by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). With their EBT Card, food stamp recipients can buy any food to be eaten at home by people, including baby food, non-alcoholic beverages, and seasonings. Allowed are also seeds and plants to grow food for a family’s consumption. Non-grocery items such as cleaning products, pet food, paper products, alcohol, or tobacco are not allowed.
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 farmworker. In order to get expedite assistance, if you qualify for it, provide all the required information and proof as soon as possible. Call 1-800-843-6154 for more information on Illinois Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Illinois Food Assistance Benefits
Find more on what kind of food you can buy using your Illinois Food Assistance benefits…
Food Assistance Program | Eligibility | Apply | Approval | Benefits
Food Banks in Illinois
Illinois food banks play an important role in the overall Illinois food assistance effort to end hunger and food insecurity throughout the State.
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 Illinois is such a non-profit organization that works to alleviate hunger in Illinois.
Illinois Food Banks
Food Pantries in Illinois
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 Illinois
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.
WIC Program in Illinois
Illinois Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides healthy foods, breastfeeding support, nutrition education, health care referrals to Illinois’ pregnant women, new mothers, infants, and young children during times of important growth.
School Meals in Illinois
School meals in Illinois are offered mainly through the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program.
The Illinois 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 Illinois
Illinois 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 Illinois Special Milk, the child must be a resident of the State of Illinois.
Summer Food Program in Illinois
Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) is another Illinois food assistance program that provides free meals and snacks to help low-income Illinois 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 Illinois 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 Illinois
Illinois 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 Illinois 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 Illinois Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program. Learn more about how the senior nutrition program works.
Sources: State Agencies, FNS, USDA