FoodShare 101: The Basics
Everyone needs a helping hand from time to time, and some of our neighbors don’t have the option of turning to family and friends. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly called food stamps, helps close to 850,000 Wisconsinites who have hit tough times by providing money for groceries while they get back on their feet. The core purpose of SNAP is to make sure people are able to meet basic nutritional needs.
SNAP, called FoodShare in Wisconsin, is a federally funded program that is administered by the states. Like Social Security and unemployment, we all pay into FoodShare through our taxes. Anyone who is eligible for FoodShare benefits can enroll. Applying for and enrolling in FoodShare will not take benefits away from anyone else.
Eligibility is based on household income and certain expenses, like rent and utilities. Seniors and disabled individuals can also include monthly medical expenses on their FoodShare applications. In general, a person may be eligible for FoodShare if he/she:
- Is a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident of at least 5 years
- Is a Wisconsin resident
- Meets income guidelines
In Wisconsin, twelve county groups process applications and manage the program. After submitting an application, applicants have a short interview with a county employee to answer any follow-up questions. This interview can be held in person or over the phone. The county has up to thirty days to determine whether or not someone is eligible. However, benefits are retroactive to the date the application was submitted. For example, let’s say Jane applied on July 1st but started receiving benefits on August 5th. She would receive the benefit amount for both July and August on August 5th.
Most people are approved for a twelve-month period. In order to get benefits for the full twelve months, participants need to complete a six-month report. This report includes information about income, expenses, housing location, and people in the household. If participants want to stay enrolled in FoodShare, they need to complete an interview and send verification documents during the last month of the twelve-month period. A person who used to be enrolled in FoodShare and wants to enroll again will need to submit a new application.
Everyone who enrolls in FoodShare gets a debit-like card, called the QUEST Card. A household’s FoodShare benefit is deposited on the QUEST Card on the same day each month. The benefit amount is based on household size, income, and expenses. The minimum benefit is $16 per month, and the maximum benefit varies depending on how many people are in the household.
The QUEST Card can be used at most grocery stores, many convenience stores, and some farmers’ markets to buy food. FoodShare benefits can be used to buy most grocery items but can’t be used for paper goods, pre-prepared foods (e.g. hot deli food), pet food, cigarettes or alcohol. It can also be used for qualified Community Support Agriculture (CSA) programs and to pay for Meals on Wheels!
If you're interested in learning more about FoodShare, please sign up for our FoodShare 101 webinar on Thursday, November 20th at 1:00 pm CST! We will discuss how FoodShare works, who enrolls in the program, eligibility guidelines, and frequently asked questions. We will also talk about common myths and stigmas associated with FoodShare. Visit our Webinars and Events page for additional details and registration information.