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Food Stamps for Seniors

Many seniors who are struggling in these tough economic times may not be aware that they are eligible for food stamps. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) -- the official name of the food stamp program -- helps low-income seniors buy the food they need.

Food stamps can be used to purchase food or food-related products, including seeds and plants to grow food, but not to buy alcohol, tobacco, vitamins, or hot food. The amount of food stamps you can receive varies depending on your household's size and income, but the maximum allotment for November 2013 through September 2014 is $189 a month for a one-person household and $347 for a two-person household in the lower 48 states.  The money is distributed through a plastic EBT (electronic benefit transfer) card, much like a debit card, which can be used at most grocery stores.

Your eligibility for food stamps depends on your resources (bank accounts, etc.) and income. Households with an elderly or disabled member can have up to $3,250 in resources and still be eligible. Certain things, including your house and most retirement plans, do not count as a resource. In addition, applicants must have incomes below specific limits to be eligible. For example, a single senior can have up $958 in net monthly income in 2014 (dollar amount is somewhat higher in Alaska and Hawaii). To calculate your income for eligibility purposes, certain expenses are deducted from your total income. This includes medical expenses of more than $35 a month if they are not paid for by Medicaid, Medicare or an insurance company.

To apply for benefits, a member of your household must go to the local SNAP office. Some states also allow online applications. To see if your state has an online application, click here.

For more information on food stamps and SNAP, click here.