How to sign up for SNAP and WIC food assistance programs


If you need assistance in buying groceries, there are a few programs that can help. File photo



High prices hurt Missouri families and food banks

Missouri food banks are strained with supply chain challenges and rising transportation and food costs, all while food insecurity increased during the COVID pandemic.

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If recent inflation and the ongoing pandemic are making food too expensive for your family’s needs, you may be eligible for certain government food assistance programs.

The SNAP program, also known as food stamps, provides money for households below a certain income to spend on groceries. WIC is a similar program that provides assistance to new and expecting mothers and their young children. Here’s what you need to know about accessing this assistance.

The rest of this article refers to how these programs work in the state of Missouri. In Kansas, where the SNAP program is called Food Assistance, you must first complete an online self-assessment through the Kansas Department for Children and Families Self-Service Portal to see whether you qualify. Then, you can apply through the Kansas Department for Children and Families’ self-service portal as well. Learn more about Kansas’ WIC program at www.kansaswic.org.

Who is eligible for SNAP?

To qualify for SNAP in Missouri, you must:

Live in Missouri

Have a Social Security number

Make less than the current income limit, which you can find by searching on the Missouri Department of Social Services site. It’s $34,450 for a family of four.

Have less than $2,500 total in your bank account, savings, investments and cash

How do I apply for SNAP?

You can either apply online through Missouri’s Department of Social Services, download an application from the DSS website and fill it out or call 855-373-4636 for more information. If you choose to fill out an application, you must then submit it in one of the following ways:

Email an electronic copy to FSD.Documents@dss.mo.gov

Mail it to the Family Support Division office at: Family Support Division, 615 E. 13th St., Kansas City, MO 64106

Fax it to 573-526-9400

What information do I need to provide?

The application will ask for the name, sex, race, date of birth and Social Security number of everyone in your household. This includes any adult children who live with you more than 50% of the time and anyone else who eats more than 50% of their meals in your home. You will then be asked to provide information about your savings, income and expenses.

You are NOT required to provide anyone’s sex or race, including your own. You are also NOT required to provide the Social Security Number of anyone in your household aside from yourself, although only those with Social Security Numbers can receive SNAP benefits.

What benefits will I receive?

Your SNAP benefits will depend on your income and the size of your household. A family of four can receive as much as $835 per month.

You should receive a letter within 10-30 days of applying telling you whether you are eligible for SNAP. Your benefits will then arrive in the form of an EBT card, which is similar to a debit card but can be used only for food.

In some emergency cases, you can receive SNAP benefits as soon as seven days after applying. Section 2 of the application asks about these urgent circumstances, so make sure you clearly mark any that apply to you.

What is WIC?

WIC, which stands for Women, Infants and Children, is a program run by the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services that also provides assistance with buying food. The program is separate from SNAP and requires a different application.

WIC assistance is available to pregnant and postpartum women, infants, and children under the age of 5 who live in households under a certain income threshold. New and expecting mothers must apply for their own WIC benefits, but anyone can apply for WIC benefits on behalf of young children and babies in their household. Contact a WIC agency in your area by searching on Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services site, calling 573-751-6204 or emailing WICinfo@health.mo.gov to learn about eligibility and apply for benefits.

What can food assistance benefits buy?

SNAP benefits can be used to buy most groceries and some plants or seeds to grow your own food. They cannot be used on hot or prepared foods, vitamins, medicine, pet food, paper products, alcohol or tobacco. WIC recipients can purchase food using an “eWIC card” with similar restrictions.

SNAP recipients can “double” their benefits by up to $25 per day when buying fresh fruits and vegetables at many farmers markets, farm stands and grocery stores. This program, called Double Up Food Bucks, is available to food assistance recipients in both Kansas and Missouri.

Extra money for fresh produce is also available to WIC recipients through March in Missouri. Children can receive up to $24 per month, while mothers can receive $43 to $47. If you think you could qualify for this, contact your local WIC agency to schedule an appointment to load these additional funds onto your eWIC card.

Do you have more questions about food assistance or finding affordable or healthy food in Kansas City? Our Service Journalism team is here to help. Reach out at kcq@kcstar.com or fill out the form below.

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Natalie Wallington is a reporter on the Star’s service desk covering government programs, community resources, COVID-19 data and environmental action among other topics. Her journalism work has previously appeared in the Washington Post, Audubon Magazine, Popular Science, VICE News, and elsewhere.

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