1. Why is there a Food Stamp Program?
The Food Stamp Program allows low-income families to buy nutritious food with coupons and Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards. Food stamp recipients spend their benefits to buy eligible food in authorized retail food stores. The program is now called Nutrition Assistance Program.
2. Do I actually get stamps?
A long time ago that's how it worked. Now you either get coupons, or, more likely, you'll get an EBT card. The EBT card is a stored value card that works like a prepaid phone card. At the store you use it just like a credit card.
3. What items can I buy with Food Stamps?
Some of the items you can buy with food stamps include food products for human consumption; food producing plants, health foods such as wheat germ, brewers yeast, sunflower seeds, and enriched or fortified foods; infant formula; diabetic foods; distilled water; ice labeled for human consumption; items used in the preparation or preservation of food such as spices and herbs, pectin, lard, and shortening; meals prepared for and delivered or served to elderly or handicapped Food Stamp participants; snack foods such as candy, potato and tortilla chips, chewing gum, and soft drinks.
The following items may not be purchased with Food Stamps: alcoholic beverages; tobacco; non-food items such as soap, paper products, cleaning supplies, and cooking utensils; items used for gardening such as fertilizer, peat moss; items not intended for human consumption such as laundry starch, dog and cat food, seeds packaged as bird seed, or decorative dye used to color hard cooked eggs; vitamins and minerals; health aids, such as aspirin, cough drops or syrups, cold remedies, antacids, and all prescription medicines; hot foods and hot food products sold in grocery stores, hot at the time of sale and ready for immediate eating; all foods marketed to be heated and served on the premises, and any prepared food sold to be eaten on the premises.
4. Am I eligible to receive Food Stamps?
In order to qualify for Food Stamps, you must be a resident of the State of Arizona and fall into one of two groups: (1) those with a current total bank balance under $2,001, or (2) those with a current bank balance under $3,001 who share their household with a person or persons age 60 and over, or with a person with a disability. There are other income eligibility requirements, depending on the number of people in the household.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture administers the Food Stamp Program. You can see more details about eligibility and benefits here.
If you are not sure if you are eligible for Food Stamps, try the Food Stamps Pre-Screening Eligibility Tool.
5. How do I apply for Food Stamps in Arizona?
You can apply online or at an office of the Department of Economic Security. Even if you aren't sure if you are eligible, or you aren't certain how to compute some of the requirements, you are encouraged to contact the DES and they will help you. For more information or assistance, you can call 602-542-9935 or statewide toll-free at 1-800-352-8401.
Note: The information provided in this article should be valid through April 2009. Requirements for eligibility for Foods Stamps / Nutrition Assistance mentioned herein are subject to change without notice.