Iowa Food Assistance
Food Stamps * Food Banks * Food Pantries * Soup Kitchens * WIC
School Meals * Special Milk * Summer Food * Senior Nutrition
In the State of Iowa, there are many sources for help with food. Iowa Food 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 Iowa?
How to apply for Iowa Food Assistance?
How does Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) 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 Iowa
Iowa Food Assistance Program
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. 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 Iowa State, the SNAP is called Iowa Food Assistance Program and is administered by the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS). According to Iowa DHS “Fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods can help you and your family be healthy and productive. Sometimes these healthy foods are expensive and families need extra help purchasing them.” That is where the Food Assistance Program helps all qualified Iowa households by using the government grants to issue food stamp benefits. Also, the federal grants for Food Assistance help the local economy. The Food Stamp benefits spend at local stores mean more jobs for Iowa residents.
Iowa Food Assistance Program aims to add more nutritious food to the table of the program qualifying low-income people. The monetary benefits of the Iowa Food Assistance are transferred to the accounts of qualified beneficiaries and are accessible through electronic debit cards.
Approx. of the total Iowa population received Food Stamp Benefits in 2018
Recipients in June, 2018 of Food Stamps (SNAP) Benefits in Iowa
Recipients in June, 2017 of Food Stamp (SNAP) Benefits in Iowa
Who is Eligible for Food Assistance Benefits in Iowa?
The eligibility rules and benefit amounts in Iowa, like in other States, are based on the household resources, income, household size, and are largely determined by regulations issued by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and Nutrition Service.
There are two most common basic requirements to qualify for Food Assistance Benefits in any state: 1) you must be a resident (citizen or legal immigrant) of that State, and 2) the household has to meet the State of Iowa income guidelines.
The federal law allows States some flexibility when implementing SNAP on a State level. For example, DHS can adapt some of the food assistance program rules in order to meet the needs of the eligible, low‐income local population.
Iowa Food Assistance Program is primarily designed for individuals and families in need of help, with limited income resources, who compose a household, and purchase and prepare their meals together for home consumption.
In general, to qualify for Food Assistance Benefits you must meet the following eligibility requirements:
- Iowa Resident – must be U.S. Citizen or qualified non-citizen status;
- Work Requirement – unless exempted, all able-bodied members of the household 18 to 50 years of age must not quit their jobs while getting food stamps;
- Income Limits – Income limits eligibility depends on the household size and composition, and if a household member was disqualified because of breaking the program rules. Households with no elderly or disabled individuals must meet gross income limits. Households with elderly or disabled individuals must meet only the net income limits. Gross income includes wages, salaries, commissions, dividends, child support, self-employment income, unemployment compensation, social security benefits, etc. Household net income is computed by deducting certain allowed expenses from gross income. Some of the allowed deductions are 20% of earned income, certain cost of dependent care, the portion of medical expenses, child support paid and a percentage of shelter costs. Local DHS Office can help with the current list of all allowable deductions. Some households that do not meet the above income guidelines might be eligible if their monthly income is not more than 160% of the federal poverty level (FPL). Check the table with Food Assistance Program income limits per household size below.
Some Iowa residents may be automatically or so-called broad-based categorically eligible for Food Assistance if they already participate in other means-tested assistance programs.
Getting any benefits including pamphlets from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), funded by federal grants, or receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) can make the applicant for Food Assistance categorically eligible, thus bypassing the income eligibility and any asset eligibility rules.
If you do have to meet an asset test, your home and the value of at least one vehicle will not count.
You can always call 1-877-347-5678 with any question on Food Assistance Eligibility.
Food Assistance Quick Eligibility Check
Use this Pre-Screening Tool to find out if you might be eligible to get Iowa Food Assistance Benefits (Food Stamps). The screening allows interested in getting Iowa food stamps to provide some basic information and determine if they are potentially eligible for benefits.
Although you will be notified immediately if you qualify after completing the questionnaire you still have to make an application at your Iowa local DHS Office.
Even if you are unsure whether you qualify you still may be eligible for Food Assistance benefits and you should still apply.
Only Iowa DHS Office can determine your eligibility and grant you Food Assistance 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 are the Iowa Food Assistance Benefits in Dollar Amount?
If approved, the Food Assistance (Food Stamp) 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. Only households with very little or no income get the maximum benefit amount.
See the table column about Max Food Assistance Benefit per month in dollars for each size of the household.
How to Apply for Food Assistance Benefits in Iowa?
To apply for Iowa Food Assistance benefits, contact your local DHS office, print the DHS Financial Support Application, or use the online service at their website.
You can also call toll free 1-877-DHS-5678 to find out where your local Iowa Department of Human Services office is located. In the application fill out all the required information and submit it.
If you do not have all the required information, complete as much of the application as you can – this will help DHS workers determine your eligibility more quickly.
All household members who want benefits must provide their SSN and citizenship/immigration information.
At a minimum, a Food Assistance Application to be accepted, it must contain your name, address, and signature.
An official has to process your application and to interview you in order to decide if you are eligible for Food Stamp Benefits.
The date your application is received by the DHS local office is the date from which your eligibility for Food Assistance Benefits will be determined.
You will get an answer to your application within 30 days of your filing date. If eligible, you will start receiving your Food Stamp Benefits from the date the DHS office received your signed application.
Call DHS Customer Call Center at 1-877-347-5678 if you have questions about the Food Assistance Benefits and the application process.
Iowa Food Assistance Benefits Approval, Rules, Proofs Required
If you submitted an application for Food Assistance Benefits and the DHS has scheduled you for an interview they may require you to bring certain application supporting documents and proofs.
Here are some examples of information and proofs you may be asked to provide at the interview:
- Proof of Identity (Driver’s License, State ID card);
- Proof of citizenship (Birth Certificate, Passport)
- Proof of lawful immigration status ONLY for non-citizens applying for benefits (an Alien Registration Card, visa);
- Proof of earned income of everyone in your household for the past four weeks (recent pay stubs, a work statement from an employer). If self-employed, income and expense or tax records;
- Proof of unearned income for each household member (Unemployment benefits, SSI, Social Security, Veteran’s benefits, child support, worker’s compensation, school grants or loans, rental income, etc.);
Iowa DHS has made available a list of question that has to be answered by each person of the household applying for Food Assistance Benefits:
- Are you getting Food Assistance from another state?
- Do you have an Iowa EBT card?
- Are you age 18 or over and in college or trade school?
- Have you been hired for a job but not paid yet?
- Have you quit a job in the last 30 days?
- Are you a migrant or seasonal farmworker?
- Are you on strike?
- Do you get help from anyone paying your bills?
- Do you have any cars, trucks, boats, campers, motorcycles or other vehicles?
- Do you have or own any land, buildings or houses other than the house you live in?
- Are you fleeing to avoid prosecution, custody, or jail for a felony crime?
- Are you violating a condition of probation or parole?
- Are you in or expecting to go to jail or prison?
- Are you disqualified from a food assistance program in any State for fraud or program violation?
- Do you have a trust?
- List the total money you have in Bank/credit union accounts, Checking/Savings, Stocks, Bonds, savings certificates, or other assets, Cash
- How much is your rent?
- If you pay taxes or insurance separate from your mortgage, how much do you pay?
- Which utilities do you pay?
- How much are your daycare expenses?
- How much do you pay for child support?
- Enter the medical expenses for anyone who is disabled or over age 59, not paid by insurance
The federal rules state that healthy adults ages 18 to 50 years old who do not have dependent children can only receive food assistance benefits for 3 months in a 36-month period if they are not working or participating in a work or workfare program.
The Iowa Food Assistance Employment and Training Program provides job-seeking skills training and employment assistance to food stamp recipients in some counties of Iowa State. Participation in the work program is voluntary.
Food Assistance Program has special rules for elderly or disabled applicants and beneficiaries regarding income limits, deductions, limits of resources and exemptions from work requirements.
Households getting food stamps benefits must report any changes of their household situation in a period of time determined by the local office in order to assure their participation in the Food Assistance program.
All Food Assistance beneficiaries are required to complete eligibility reviews, usually every 6 or 12 months, in order to continue receiving food stamps benefits. The DHS Office would notify the food recipients when it is time for the household to renew its Food Assistance Benefits.
Applicants waiting for Food Assistance Benefits approval in Iowa should get a response within 30 days from the date they submitted the application to the local DHS Office.
Approved! When and How Do I Get the Food Assistance Benefits?
Iowa Food Assistance Program provides the food stamp benefits via the State Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) system. The monetary benefits of the Iowa SNAP are transferred to the accounts of qualified beneficiaries and are accessible through the Iowa EBT Card.
The Food Assistance Benefits are made available over the first 10 calendar days of every month, based on the first letter of the client’s last name:
First Letter of the Last Name is: A or B = benefits available on the 1st
First Letter of the Last Name is: C or D = benefits available on the 2nd
First Letter of the Last Name is: E, F, or G = benefits available on the 3rd
First Letter of the Last Name is: H or I = benefits available on the 4th
First Letter of the Last Name is: J, K, or L = benefits available on the 5th
First Letter of the Last Name is: M, N, or O = benefits available on the 6th
First Letter of the Last Name is: P, Q, or R = benefits available on the 7th
First Letter of the Last Name is: S = benefits available on the 8th
First Letter of the Last Name is: T, U, or V = benefits available on the 9th
First Letter of the Last Name is: W,X,Y, or Z = benefits available on the 10th
If you have any question regarding your EBT Account or Iowa EBT Card call Iowa EBT Customer Service: 1-800-359-5802
How and Where to Use the Food Assistance Benefits?
Iowa Food Assistance Program provides the SNAP benefits via the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) system. The monetary benefits of the Iowa SNAP are transferred to the accounts of qualified beneficiaries and are accessible through the Iowa EBT Card.
Food Assistance Benefits can only be used to purchase eligible food items at USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) authorized stores in the State of Iowa.
With their EBT cards, households can buy almost any food for human consumption from approved markets and groceries. A notable exception is a tobacco, alcohol, food supplements, meals from restaurants, and hot food for immediate consumption. For security reasons, USDA does not allow EBT cards to be used online to buy food from Internet websites.
I Need Food Stamps Now. It is an Emergency!
Some households may get Expedited Services, as per federal rules – that is 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. You can always contact the local Food Assistance Office for more information. Use the following phone number to get more information on Food Assistance Program in the State of Iowa: 1-877-347-5678
Iowa Food Assistance Benefits
Find more on what kind of food you can buy using your Iowa Food Assistance benefits…
Food Assistance Program | Eligibility | Apply | Approval | Benefits
Food Banks in Iowa
Iowa food banks play an important role in the overall Iowa 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 Iowa is such a non-profit organization that works to alleviate hunger in Iowa.
Iowa Food Banks
Food Pantries in Iowa
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 Iowa
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 Iowa
Iowa Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides healthy foods, breastfeeding support, nutrition education, health care referrals to Iowa pregnant women, new mothers, infants, and young children during times of important growth.
Iowa Women, Infants, and Children Program
School Meals in Iowa
School meals in Iowa are offered mainly through the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program.
The Iowa 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.
Iowa School Lunch Program | Iowa School Breakfast Program
Special Milk Program in Iowa
Iowa 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 Iowa Special Milk, the child must be a resident of the State of Iowa.
Summer Food Program in Iowa
Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) is another Iowa food assistance program that provides free meals and snacks to help low-income Iowa 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 Iowa 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.
Iowa Summer Food Service Program
Senior Nutrition in Iowa
Iowa 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 Iowa 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 Iowa Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program. Learn more about how the senior nutrition program works.
Iowa Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program
Sources: State Agencies, FNS, USDA