Originally, New Jersey food stamps were vouchers that recipients used like coupons to buy food at grocery stores. Nowadays, the food stamps program has been renamed the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and the funds distributed to participants are called SNAP benefits. In New Jersey, recipients use “families first” electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards that work like debit cards. Every month, these cards are loaded with cash assistance from SNAP.
The New Jersey SNAP program helps approximately 818,000 people, and more than 67 percent of these recipients are in families with children. To learn more about requirements, application methods and what to expect while enrolled in the program, continue reading below.
Learn About New Jersey Food Stamps Requirements
Food stamps eligibility in New Jersey takes into consideration several different requirements regarding citizenship, income and more. Moreover, the application process prompts you to submit the Social Security numbers (SSNs) of each member of your household. Essentially, this means that every household member who wishes to receive benefits must be a U.S. citizen or a legal resident.
On the other hand, be mindful that legal non-citizens may not apply for benefits until they have lived in the country legally for a minimum of five years. Certain non-citizens may bypass this rule if they are:
- Legal non-citizen children who are 17 years of age or younger.
- Refugees escaping severe trafficking.
- Immigrants seeking asylum.
The rules regarding food stamp qualifications state that if a household member does not qualify for this program, you may simply leave his or her SSN section blank. He or she will not be eligible for benefits, but the eligibility of other household members will not be affected.
Next, your household must not surpass the income limits set by the state. Income limits are revised each year and depend on the number of people in a household. In general, this means that a household cannot have a total gross income (earnings before taxes are deducted) of more than 185 percent of the Federal Poverty Limit (FPL) or a net income (earnings after taxes and deductions) of more than 100 percent of the FPL.
It is important for you to check the most updated income limits before applying. To determine your gross monthly income, combine the earnings of each able-bodied adult without dependents (ABAWD) living in the home, and do not account for taxes. You may not meet SNAP eligibility in NJ if your assets exceed a certain amount. Countable assets include:
- Cash on hand
- Money in checking accounts and savings accounts
Note: Child support payments, retirement savings and other forms of unearned income will not factor into your monthly income.
If you are a student, a senior or a person with a disability, your SNAP income guidelines and eligibility requirements may be slightly different. For instance, as a student, you must be enrolled in an approved NJ community college and be able to work a certain number of hours. Alternatively, if you are a senior or have a disability, you may deduct out-of-pocket medical expenses from your monthly income. Download our free guide to get a better understanding of the SNAP requirements.
How to Apply for Food Stamps in New Jersey
If you feel ready to apply for food stamps in New Jersey, you must gather the proper documentation that will help you fill out the application form. This includes:
- The birth certificate, green card or another identifying document for each household member.
- Proof of employment for each ABAWD in the home.
- Proof of income and unearned income.
- Lease or mortgage agreement.
- Utility bills.
- Medical bills, if you are a senior or have a disability.
- Proof of enrollment in school, if you are a student.
You may submit the New Jersey food stamp application online, in person, via mail or by fax. To fill out the form online, log onto the state application website and create an account if you have not done so already. The online application is available in English and Spanish.
From there, you may answer preliminary questions about yourself, including your name, email address and date of birth. If you do not finish the online application process in one sitting, you may save your work, log off and then log back in at a different time. However, be mindful that you have 45 days from the start of an online application to complete it, or your progress will be discarded.
When you apply for food stamps online, your application will be submitted immediately. The same is true if you apply in person.
If you wish to apply in person, you may visit your local county agency during its business hours. You may want to complete the application beforehand, unless you need help with certain sections. This means that you must print out the correct form from the state website.
Alternatively, in order to apply for SNAP in New Jersey by mail or by fax, you must print out the proper form and send it to your county agency. It may take longer for your agency to receive mail-in applications.
Learn About SNAP Benefits in New Jersey
If you qualify for SNAP benefits in New Jersey, it is important to understand what types of products you can and cannot buy with your “families first” EBT card. Your card will work in most grocery stores and some farmers’ markets, but not in restaurants. As an example, you may use your EBT card to buy:
- Fruits and vegetables.
- Meat, poultry and fish.
- Meat substitutes, such as tofu.
- Dairy products.
- Breads, cereals and grains.
- Beans, nuts and seeds.
- Snack foods.
While the DHS recommends that you use your food stamp benefits for staple foods, such as fresh produce, meat and meat substitutes, dairy, bread and grains, you are also allowed to purchase certain pre-packaged foods. This includes granola bars, chips, cookies, popcorn and more. On the other hand, you cannot use your EBT card to buy:
- Alcoholic beverages.
- Tobacco, cigarettes and vaping products.
- Pet food.
- Toiletries, paper products and cosmetics.
- Prepared foods meant to be eaten in a store.
- Live animals, unless you are purchasing shellfish removed from the water.
If you are confused about where or how to use your SNAP food benefits, make sure that the product you want to purchase with your EBT card has a nutrition label. Food items that do not display nutrition labels are typically not allowed for purchase with food stamps. Download our free guide to learn more about SNAP benefits.
Name: NJ State Department of Human Services
Phone Number for the SNAP Hotline: (800) 687-9512
Address: 222 South Warren Street, Trenton, NJ 08625
Commissioner: Sarah Adelman
Last Updated: February 24, 2023