Low-income families that are in need of food assistance may be eligible for benefits from the federal Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) program, which is also referred to as the Food Stamps program in North Carolina. Overall, this benefit aims to assist households that have limited income and resources. Depending on the number of household members and their ages, the program’s eligibility requirements may differ slightly.
Benefits from food stamps are typically issued through an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card. As a general rule, these benefits can be used to purchase food from USDA-authorized farmers’ markets and grocery stores. As such, beneficiaries are able to use these SNAP funds to increase their household’s ability to afford more nutritious meals. Read below to find out more information about the food stamps program administered by the North Carolina Department and Health and Human Services (DHHS).
Which food items can you buy using food stamps in North Carolina?
Food stamp benefits in North Carolina are distributed so that low-income families can afford purchasing food for their households. Therefore, these benefits can be used to buy food not only from convenience stores and grocery stores, but also from certain co-op food programs and farmers’ markets.
Generally, food stamps can be used for purchasing staple food items that are frozen, fresh, unrefrigerated or refrigerated. As such, participants can use their FNS food benefits to purchase four different categories of staple foods, which include:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Potatoes (raw potatoes or frozen French fries)
- Apples (pre-sliced or whole apples)
- Spinach (frozen or fresh)
- Pineapples (canned pineapples or a whole pineapple)
- Carrots (baby carrots or canned carrots)
- Meat, fish and poultry
- Chicken (frozen chicken tenders or fresh chicken breast)
- Beef (dried beef jerky or beef brisket)
- Salmon (frozen or fresh salmon)
- Live shellfish (lobster or clams)
- Tuna (canned tuna or fresh tuna steak)
- Dairy products
- Milk (whole milk or 2 percent milk)
- Yogurt (Greek yogurt or fresh fruit yogurt)
- Cheese (slices of American cheese or shredded mozzarella cheese)
- Almond-based milk (shelf-stable or refrigerated almond milk)
- Butter or butter substitutes (margarine or fresh salted butter)
- Bread and cereals
- Bread (a loaf of sourdough bread or a loaf of whole wheat bread)
- Cereals (breakfast cereals or cereals for infants)
- Bagels (wheat bagels or sesame seed bagels)
- Rice (a bag of jasmine rice or a frozen meal with a rice base)
- Pasta (angel hair pasta or spaghetti)
North Carolina food stamp benefits can also be used for purchasing eligible non-food items, such as garden seeds and plants that will grow to produce food for the household to consume. Food accessories such as cooking oil, baking soda and other items that have nutrition labels can also be purchased using benefits from the food stamps program. Download our free guide to learn more about the items you are able to buy using SNAP funds.
Products You Cannot Buy Using Food Stamps in North Carolina
In order to prevent food stamps from being misused, there are certain items that a household is not authorized to buy using these benefits. As an example, the following items cannot be purchased using benefits from the Food and Nutritional Services program:
- Alcohol such as wine, beer and liquor
- Items with Supplemental Facts labels instead of Nutrition Facts labels, including vitamins, supplements and medicines
- Live animals, except for shellfish, animals that are slaughtered prior to being picked up from a store or fish that have been removed from water
- Hot foods
- Foods that are prepared to be immediately consumed
- Nonfood items such as:
- Food for pets
- Hygiene products
- Cosmetic products
- Cleaning supplies
- Household items
How are food stamps benefits amounts calculated in North Carolina?
Participants in the food stamp program are expected to use around 30 percent of their monthly income and resources to pay for food. Even though there is no food stamp calculator tool available, benefit allotments are usually calculated by taking 30 percent of a household’s net income each month. Then, that number is subtracted by the maximum monthly benefit allotment for the household’s size. To learn more about food stamps, download our guide.
SNAP Food Benefits
Elderly citizens who receive SSI in North Carolina may be eligible for benefits from the Simplified Nutritional Assistance (SNAP). As the name suggests, the SNAP program is a simplified version of Food and Nutrition Services. SNAP will only accept participants who are not residing in an institution and are purchasing and preparing their food apart from any other people living in their household.
When do you start receiving food stamp benefits after applying in North Carolina?
Applicants who are approved for assistance from Food and Nutrition Services will begin to get food stamps after 30 calendar days from the date when the application was submitted. This includes applications that are initially submitted with only the name, address and signature provided on the form. Those who are applying for benefits from both FNS and Social Security Income (SSI) simultaneously will have the date that they were fully processed as their filing date.
In certain circumstances, applicants may be able to receive expedited food stamp benefits within 7 calendar days from when their initial application was submitted. To verify whether applicants are qualified for expedited food stamps, they must provide information about household income, expenses and assets to show that they may be in an emergency situation. Some situations that qualify as emergency situations include the following:
- The gross monthly income for your household is currently less than $150, and the amount of cash or money your household has in the bank is $100 or less.
- The cost of your household’s rent, utilities and mortgage exceed your household’s gross monthly income and any cash or money in the bank.
- At least one member of the household is a seasonal/migrant farmworker.