Food Support FAQ’s: Frequently asked questions

What is the Food Support program?
The Food Support (Food Stamps) program is a county-run, federal program that helps Minnesotans with low incomes get the food they need for sound nutrition and well-balanced meals. The program issues electronic food support benefits that can help stretch tight food budgets.

 

What is the Minnesota Food Assistance Program?
The Minnesota Food Assistance Program (MFAP) was created by the 1998 Minnesota Legislature in response to federal law changes, which made certain non-citizens ineligible for federally funded Food Support. MFAP uses state funds to replace the benefits lost when federal Food Support eligibility ended. MFAP is only available to non-citizens 50 years of age or older. Apply for MFAP as you would for Food Support at your county agency.

 

Am I eligible?
Food Support eligibility depends on your household’s income and assets. Households must have income at or below 130 percent of the federal poverty guideline. As long as you receive the Domestic Violence Information Brochure, your household will have an asset limit of $7,000. County human services agencies accept client applications, determine eligibility, and determine benefit levels in accordance with state and federal regulations.

 

Contact the Crow Wing, Morrison or Todd County Human Service agency or go to any Community Action or other non-profit partner agencies to answer your questions and provide application assistance, if necessary. To see a list of these outreach and application assistance agencies, click here.

 

The Food Support Screening tools below ask a few questions to help you determine if you may be eligible for the Food Support Program.

  • Screening tool for those aged 60 and over.
  • Screening tool for Families and Single Adults.

 

What can I get with Food Support?
Food Support can only be used for food, plants and seeds to grow food for your household to eat. Food Support cannot be used to buy:

 

  • Any non-food item such as pet foods, soaps, paper products, household supplies, grooming items, toothpaste and cosmetics.
  • Alcoholic beverages and tobacco.
  • Vitamins and medicines.
  • Any food that will be eaten in the store.
  • Hot foods.

 

Where can I shop?
Grocery stores and convenience stores must sell a variety of foods in order to be authorized to accept Minnesota’s Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card.


Authorized stores will display a poster or sign that reads: “We Accept Food Stamp Benefits.” Benefits can also be used at authorized sites for Meals on Wheels and Congregate Dining.

 

How much can I get?
The Food Support program is a supplemental program. Your household is expected to spend about 30% of your resources on food. The amount of benefits will vary depending upon the number of people in your household and their income and assets.

 

What is the time limit?
Food Support does not have a time limit. As long as you meet program requirements, Food Support benefits continue as long as you need them.


Able-bodied adults without children who are able to work and do not work a minimum of 20 hours a week may only be eligible for 3 months of benefits in a 36-month period of time. Note: At this time (written November 2009) there is an existing waiver to this limitation, which allows able-bodied adults without children to access the Food Support program for up to a year.) Households exiting the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) may still qualify for continued food assistance from the Food Support program.

 

How hard is it to apply?
First you must fill out the Combined Application Form (CAF). Complete the form and give it to your county human services office. You will also need to be interviewed and provide proof of things such as your income, assets and housing costs.

 

What about other languages?
If you prefer information in another language, click here.

 

Can I apply for someone else?
If appointed as an authorized representative, you may contact the agency, attend interviews, complete forms, provide documentation, appeal county agency decisions, and/or receive food benefits for someone else. An authorized representative can be a friend, relative, person with power of attorney or person appointed by the courts. To be appointed as an authorized representative, the client must list your information on the Combined Application Form.

 

What if I can’t come to the office for an interview?
If you are unable to go to your county office for an interview, you can authorize a friend or relative who is familiar with your circumstances to apply on your behalf. This person is called an authorized representative. If you are unable to authorize someone, you can request to be interviewed over the telephone.

 

How much am I allowed to have in assets and still receive Food Support?
Households applying for or receiving Food Support have an asset limit of $7,000 as long as you receive the Domestic Violence Information Brochure and your household’s income is at or below the Food Support program limits.

 

How long does it take after I apply to know if I qualify?
It depends on your situation. For some emergency situations, you could be issued benefits within 24 hours of your interview. For most situations, your worker must notify you of a decision within 30 days.

 

How much will I receive in benefits if I qualify?
The amount of benefits depends on your income, expenses and the number of people in your household. In state fiscal year 2006, the average benefit per household was $190 per month.

 

How do I get my benefits?
Most food benefits are distributed through Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT), which is similar to a debit card. Each month, your EBT account is credited with your benefits. During the month, you use your card to purchase food at enrolled grocery stores. You swipe your EBT card through a point-of-sale terminal and the purchases are deducted from your account balance. You may authorize an additional person to use your EBT card. Food Support benefits can be used to buy food, plants or seeds to grow food for you or your family. They can also be used at authorized sites for Meals on Wheels and Congregate Dining. Also see Using Food Stamps on the Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) Web site for more information on what you can and cannot get with your EBT card.

 

Will a lien be put against my home if I receive Food Support?
No. Food Support does not consider the home you live in toward your assets and it does not recover any benefits paid out as a lien against your home.

 

How often do I have to complete the paperwork?
In March 2009, Six-Month Reporting became a new way of calculating Food Support benefits and reporting changes for some people. People who currently report monthly will now only be required to report every six months. Six-month reporting means you will only have to report prior to six months if your household’s income is more than your gross income limit. You must report this income change by the 10th of the following month. Example: for a family of four the gross income limit is $2,389.

 

Who is not in Six-Month Reporting?
The following households will not be Six-Month Reporters:

  • Homeless
  • Migrant workers
  • Seasonal farm workers
  • Elderly (60+ or disabled without earned income)
  • Individuals living on Tribal Reservations
  • Those household units receiving MFIP including the Uncle Harry Food Support cases.

Do most people only receive $10 a month?
Statistics in Minnesota for Federal Fiscal Year 2006 show the average benefit per household, per month is $190, and the average benefit per household, per month for those 60 and older is $48. Since that time, increases, including the 2010 Stimulus Plan increased food support dollars including the minimum dollar amount which is now $16 a month.

 

Once the time limit for MFIP is up, is Food Support still available?
There is no time limit for Food Support. Once MFIP runs out, your county can help you continue to receive Food Support. Your financial worker may contact you for more information. If you do not want to continue receiving Food Support, contact your financial worker.

 

If you have a checking account or savings account are you eligible?
As long as your household has received the Domestic Violence Program brochure, the asset limit is $7,000.

 

Isn’t it embarrassing to use the paper coupons instead of money at a store?
Food coupons are no longer issued; instead you will get an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card. The EBT card looks and works like any other bank debit card, making it hard for people to tell what you are using to pay for your food.

 

If I am working, can I receive Food Support?
Food Support is a form of assistance that benefits the working poor. As long as you meet income and asset limits, you are eligible.

 

If I’ve been laid off, or am out of work because of an illness, can I apply for Food Support?
Anyone who needs food assistance and who meets the income and asset limits can apply.

 

Must everyone go to the county office for an interview?
If you are not able to go to the county office, you may request a telephone interview. You may also ask a relative, pastor, neighbor, etc., to attend the interview for you as an authorized representative.

 

Can I own a home or be in the process of buying a home to be eligible for Food Support?
You may own or buy a home and still receive Food Support. Your home and its lot are not considered an asset, and the program does not require you to sign away your home.

 

Seniors

What is the definition of a senior for the Food Support Program?
A senior is a person 60 or older.

Do seniors receive credit for medical and prescription drug bills?
Unreimbursed out-of-pocket medical expenses that exceed $35 a month may be deducted unless an insurance company or someone who is not a household member pays for them. Only the amount over $35 can be deducted.

 

Must senior households be reviewed for Food Support benefits every three months?
If all adult members of your household are seniors or disabled, the current review period is every 24 months.

 

Immigrants

If I am awaiting citizenship, can I be on Food Support, or will my citizenship application be denied?
Some immigrants are eligible for Food Support regardless of citizenship.


If you receive Food Support, you are not considered a public charge under immigration laws.

 

Are children born in the U.S. to illegal or undocumented immigrants eligible?
Children born in the U.S. are legal citizens and you may apply for Food Support for them, even if you have an illegal status or are undocumented.

 

Will the county office report illegal immigrant status to INS?
The county office by law cannot report any illegal immigrant status to INS.

 

Are immigrants eligible for Food Support?
Depending on your immigrant status, you may be eligible for Food Support.


There is also a State Funded Food Program for immigrants who do not qualify for federally funded Food Support if you are 50 years of age or older.

 

Farmers

Can I own my farm and be eligible for Food Support?
Yes, if your farm produces income for you and your family.

 

Does the value of my farmland count toward my asset limit?
For self-employed farmers, the farmland you own to produce income is excluded from the asset limit.

 

If I quit farming, will my farmland continue to be excluded?
Yes, for one year after you quit farming. After one year, the farmland would be a counted asset.

 

Does the value of my licensed vehicles, equipment and supplies count toward my asset limit?
If you are a self-employed farmer, these items are excluded as long as they are being used to produce income.

 

What happens if I sell my farm on a contract for deed?
If the contract produces income consistent with the farm’s fair market value, it is excluded.

 

What happens if I lease my land, but still live on the homestead?
If the lease contract produces income consistent with its fair market value; it is excluded as an income-producing asset. Your homestead and the surrounding land you own would be excluded as an asset as long as you live in it.

 

What if I’m trying to sell my farm, but can’t sell it?
If you are making a good faith effort to sell it, the property is excluded as an asset. The farm might be considered a non-liquid asset under one of the following conditions:

  • You are unable to sell the asset for any significant return. A significant return is any return that is determined to be more than $1,500, after estimating costs of sale or disposition and taking into account the ownership for the household.
  • The cost of selling the asset would be relatively great.
  • The sale is unlikely to produce significant funds of more than $1,500 for the support of your household.