Food stamps in Tennessee are provided by the state Department of Human Service (TDHS). This program, which is officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), helps low-income residents afford groceries. Overall, these benefits are available for children and families, with an emphasis on helping homeless individuals and households that include seniors or people with disabilities.
As a general rule, SNAP food stamps are meant to supplement a family’s grocery budget rather than cover the entire cost of food for the month. With that in mind, most households use their own funds in addition to the benefits they receive from SNAP.
In order to receive SNAP assistance in Tennessee, you must meet certain requirements and submit an application to the THDS. If you are approved, you can receive benefits starting from the date when you applied. Read below to learn more about these eligibility requirements and find out how to obtain and use SNAP benefits.
Learn About Tennessee Food Stamps Requirements
The main food stamp qualifications in Tennessee relate to income level, citizenship status and household size. In certain circumstances, the age, employment status and/or disability status of an applicant may come into play as well.
In any case, you must be a resident of Tennessee in order to receive SNAP benefits from the TDHS. If you meet the other requirements but are not a resident, it may be possible to apply for assistance in your home state instead.
Your food stamps eligibility is heavily based on your household income and composition. To meet the SNAP income guidelines in Tennessee, your income must typically be at or below 130 percent of the poverty level. However, these food stamp income guidelines are different if your household includes any seniors or people with disabilities. If that is your case, your household may be able to qualify with a slightly higher income level.
SNAP eligibility requirements also take into consideration the amount of financial resources that you have. A resource can include cash on hand, bank accounts, stocks, bonds and/or property. In most cases, your home and your car are not considered resources. Moreover, just like income limits, you are able to have a slightly higher amount of financial resources if your household includes seniors or people with disabilities.
Note that you must include the income and assets for each household member. By definition, the members of your household include anyone who lives together and shares meals. As such, you do not have to be related to one another to count as a single household.
If you are not elderly and do not have a disability, you typically need to meet certain employment requirements before you can get benefits. In order to meet food stamps eligibility in TN, you must have a job, be looking for a job, maintain a certain number of work hours or agree to participate in employment training.
How to Apply for Food Stamps in Tennessee
You can apply for food stamps in Tennessee using a few different methods. First, it is easy to apply for food stamps online using the official state portal. To do so, you must create an account or sign into an existing account (if you have one). Next, you must enter the required information and follow the on-screen prompts to submit your application.
If you prefer, you can also complete a physical food stamp application form instead. This form can be printed out from the official state portal, or you can reach out to a TDHS office to obtain a copy. Once your form is complete, you can submit it to your county TDHS agency by mail or drop it off at a local office in person.
Regardless of how you apply for SNAP in Tennessee, you will need to undergo an interview and submit documents that verify your information. You might need to submit paperwork that verifies your:
- Address and residency
- Income level and financial resources
- Social Security number (SSN)
- Living expenses
Interviews are typically conducted in person or over the phone. The purpose of these interviews is to certify that your information is correct and that your application is properly filled out. As such, a case worker may ask for any additional details that were missing from your application. Download our free guide to learn more about the interview and application process.
Learn About SNAP Benefits in Tennessee
You may start receiving Tennessee SNAP food benefits as soon as your application is fully processed. Typically, this happens within 30 days. If you have very limited resources and/or extremely low income, you may qualify for emergency assistance. In such cases, benefits may be approved in one week. However, be mindful that it is up to a TDHS case worker to determine whether you qualify for emergency assistance.
In any case, your Tennessee SNAP benefits will be provided on an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card that looks and works like a debit card. Overall, you can use an EBT card to buy approved food items at grocery stores, supermarkets and farmers’ markets that are authorized to accept these benefits. As such, be mindful that not all retailers and/or establishments accept SNAP. This includes casinos, most restaurants and cruise ships.
Just as there are establishments where you cannot use food stamp benefits, there are also items that you cannot spend your funds on. Namely, products such as alcohol, tobacco and non-food items are all prohibited. You are not allowed to buy hot foods or prepared items that are meant to be eaten right away. For example, you cannot purchase a rotisserie chicken or ready-to-eat pizza.
It is important to note that you cannot take out SNAP benefits as cash at an ATM. If you receive other forms of assistance, note that those benefits may be eligible for cash withdrawals, but SNAP is not. Instead, SNAP food benefits can only be used to buy food items, such as:
- Meat, fish, poultry and eggs
- Bread, cereal, pasta and other grains
- Fruits and veggies
- Plants and seeds that you can grow at home
- Most snacks and beverages
Download our free guide to learn more about using your benefits and explore the foods you are authorized to purchase.
Name: Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) Family Assistance Service
Phone Number: (866) 311-4287 or (615) 743-2000 (Nashville area only)
Address: 505 Deaderick Street, Nashville, TN 37243
Director: Cherrell Campbell-Street
Last Updated: February 27, 2023