Montana Food Assistance
Food Stamps * Food Banks * Food Pantries * Soup Kitchens * WIC
School Meals * Special Milk * Summer Food * Senior Nutrition
In the State of Montana, there are many sources for help with food. The Montana 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 Montana?
How to apply for Montana Food Assistance?
How does Montana Human and Community Services Division (HCSD) 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 Montana
Montana 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 Montana. 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 Montana, the SNAP is known as Montana Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and is administered by the Human and Community Services Division (HCSD) under the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS). The Federal Government pays 100% of Montana SNAP Benefits with federal grants appropriated for SNAP. The SNAP federal grants also pay a share of the Montana SNAP administrative cost.
According to Montana Human and Community Services Division, “The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly the Food Stamp Program) provides benefits to eligible families to supplement their food budget and increase their ability to purchase healthy foods.”
Approx. of the total Montana population received Food Stamp Benefits in 2018
Recipients in June, 2018 of Food Stamps (SNAP) Benefits in Montana
Recipients in June, 2017 of Food Stamp (SNAP) Benefits in Montana
Who is Eligible for SNAP (Food Stamps) in Montana?
The eligibility rules and benefit amounts in Montana, 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.
Montana 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. 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 Montana SNAP, 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 Montana anyone with limited income and resources may apply for food stamps but, in general, to qualify for Montana SNAP (Food Stamp) Benefits you must meet the following basic eligibility requirements:
- Montana 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 Montana 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) cash assistance, tribal TANF cash assistance, or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) can make the applicant for SNAP 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 Office of Public Assistance for more details on SNAP categorical eligibility.
See the table for Maximum Monthly Income (measured as a percentage of the federal poverty level – FPL) allowable for SNAP Benefits Eligibility in the State of Montana, as per household size:
Quick Eligibility Check
Use this Pre-Screening Tool to find out if you may be eligible to get Montana SNAP Benefits (Food Stamps).
The screening allows interested in getting Montana food stamps to provide some basic information and determine if they are potentially eligible for benefits.
Although you will be notified immediately on the screen if you qualify after completing the questionnaire, you still have to make an application at your local Montana HCSD office. Even if you are unsure whether you qualify you still may be eligible for SNAP Benefits and you should still apply. Human and Community Services Division is the agency in Montana that can make the final determination regarding your SNAP 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 are Maximum Montana SNAP (Food Stamps) Benefits?
If approved, the Montana 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 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 Montana?
Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) has one application for several assistance programs including SNAP. Using the same application form people in need can apply for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, Medicaid and Healthy Montana Kids Plus (HMK Plus), Medicare Savings Programs, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash assistance, Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA), Refugee Medical Assistance (RMA) or Refugee Social Services (RSS) – including Refugee Employment & Training (RET). Applicants need to answer questions only that concern the assistance they are applying for.
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, medical assistance, or in need of child care assistance.
Applicants for SNAP in the State of Montana have the right to file an application in person, through an authorized representative, by fax, or by mail. Interested in getting SNAP benefits may submit the application to any Office of Public Assistance (OPA).
Fill out all required information on the application and return it to the OPA. The application process includes a SNAP eligibility interview and information verification.
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, social security number, and your signature for the OPA to accept it. All required information and its verification can be provided later at the interview or upon request.
If you are not able to appear for an interview or you are unable to find someone to represent you, call your County Office of Public Assistance to schedule a phone interview.
Before decision is made an OPA worker has to verify all the paperwork and interview the applicant. 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 Montana DPHHS finds you eligible for SNAP benefits, you will be entitled to receive food stamps from the date your signed application is received.
Montana SNAP applicants also have the option to apply for benefits online using Montana Official State Website.
Montana SNAP Benefits Approval, Rules, Proofs Required
In addition to filing an application in the State of Montana, the process to determine your SNAP eligibility includes an interview and information verification.
The Montana DPHHS has a list of examples of documents and information that may be needed at the interview or to be submitted with your application which may speed up the application process.
- Proof of Identity:
- Driver’s license;
- State ID card;
- Military dependent ID card;
- Tribal documents;
- Federal or local government ID card;
- Military card or draft record;
- School ID with picture.
- Social Security Numbers
- Citizenship/Alien Status:
- U.S. Passport;
- Official Birth Certificate;
- Certificate of Naturalization;
- USCIS forms;
- Alien Registration Card;
- Certificate of Citizenship.
- Income and Resources:
- Pay stubs, pay envelopes, earnings statements from employers
- Award letters for Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, Unemployment Insurance benefits, Workers’ Compensation, Veterans Administration benefits, pensions, etc.
- Child support and/or alimony stubs or payment records
- Bank statements for checking accounts and savings accounts
- Financial statements for certificates of deposit or stocks and bonds
- Federal income tax returns, bookkeeping records, expense records
- Rental income or sales contract records/ledgers
- Life insurance and/or burial policies (Not required for SNAP)
- Trust documents
- Statements of loans, gifts or contributions that you have received
- Automobile/equipment statements of loans or balance due (Not required for SNAP)
- Vehicle registrations or titles (Not required for SNAP)
- Printout or other documentation of IIM account activity
- Dependent care bills and receipts
- Medical expense bills or statements (medication, doctor bills, hospital bills, insurance premiums). Include copies of Medicare and health insurance explanation of benefits/payment statements.
- Child support paid to a non-household member
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 Montana should get a response within 30 days from the date they submitted their application to the OPA. When start getting food stamps benefits, households must report any changes of their situation in a set by the agency period of time in order to assure their participation in the Montana Supplemental Nutrition Assistance 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.
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 for all SNAP benefit recipients age 16 through 59 if they are not exempt. 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 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 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 SNAP benefits recipients get jobs, reduce or eliminate their dependency on the government benefits.
Individuals who reside in a county where a SNAP Employment and Training Program is available may apply and attend the program. Call 1-888-706-1535 if you want to find more about the Montana Employment and Training Program offered to SNAP recipients.
Approved! When and How Do I Get the SNAP Benefits?
Montana Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program provides the benefits via the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) system. The monetary benefits of the Montana SNAP benefits are transferred to the accounts of qualified beneficiaries and are accessible through a Montana EBT card – the Montana Access Card, which is issued to anyone approved for SNAP. The Montana SNAP Benefits are deposited into the recipients’ accounts each month following the Benefit Issuance Schedule.
Benefits are made available over a 5 day period at 12:01 AM beginning with the second calendar day of every month, based on the last digit of the SNAP eligibility system (TEAMS) case number:
TEAMS case # ends in: 0 or 1 = benefits available on the 2nd of the month
TEAMS case # ends in: 2 or 3 = benefits available on the 3rd of the month
TEAMS case # ends in: 4 or 5 = benefits available on the 4th of the month
TEAMS case # ends in: 6 or 7 = benefits available on the 5th of the month
TEAMS case # ends in: 8 or 9 = benefits available on the 6th of the month
If you have any question regarding your EBT Account or EBT Card call Montana EBT Customer Service: 866-850-1556
How and Where to Use the SNAP Benefits?
Montana SNAP benefits are provided via the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) system. The monetary benefits of the Montana SNAP are transferred into the accounts of qualified beneficiaries and are accessible through Montana Access Cards. Households and individuals can use their EBT cards and spend the benefits like cash at any Montana grocery stores and farmers’ markets that are authorized by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to accept SNAP (food stamp) benefits.
Check this list of Montana SNAP participating stores 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 1-888-706-1535 for more information on Montana Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Montana Food Assistance Program
Find more about Montana Food Assistance Program
Search for Food Assistance by County and Town
Food Banks in Montana
Montana food banks play an important role in the overall Montana food assistance effort to end hunger and food insecurity throughout the State of Montana.
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 Montana is such a non-profit organization that works to alleviate hunger in Montana.
Montana Food Banks
Food Pantries in Montana
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 Montana
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 Montana
Montana Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides healthy foods, breastfeeding support, nutrition education, health care referrals to Montana pregnant women, new mothers, infants, and young children during times of important growth.
School Meals in Montana
School meals in Montana are offered mainly through the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program.
The Montana 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 Montana
Montana 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 Montana Special Milk, the child must be a resident of the State of Montana.
Summer Food Program in Montana
Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) is another Montana food assistance program that provides free meals and snacks to help low-income Montana 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 Montana 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 Montana
Montana 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 Montana 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 Montana Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program. Learn more about how the senior nutrition program works.
Sources: State Agencies, FNS, USDA