Food Stamp Program

The Food Stamp Program, which is administered by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA), is geared toward enabling low-income households to purchase the food they need to maintain proper nutritional levels and good health. The Thrifty Food Plan is USDA's estimate of a family's total monthly food expense broken down by household size which is adjusted annually in accordance with the cost of living index.

Eat Smart New York
In partnership with Westchester County Department of Social Services, the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Westchester provides nutrition education to Food Stamp participants under the Eat Smart New York Program.  The program was designed to enable participants with limited budgets to make healthier food choices.  The ESNY classes meet in convenient places such as schools, senior centers, and other community based locations.
Learning through ESNY is hands-on.  Program participants can prepare, cook and taste a variety of different foods, and everyone who participates in a series of classes receives a certificate.
To learn more or enroll in ESNY classes, please call (914) 285-4630.

What are the main eligibility factors?

The Program is designed to provide a nutritional supplement for both public assistance and non-public assistance households who meet certain eligibility standards with respect to income, resources, and alien status. Factors such as household size, shelter/utility expense, and monthly income are taken into account in determining specific benefit levels for each household.

Individuals who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and live alone may be eligible to automatically receive Food Stamp Benefits under the New York State Nutrition Improvement Project.  Please call the hotline at 1-800-342-3009 for additional information.

How do I apply for benefits?

Application for benefits may be made in person at the DSS Service Center serving the household's particular municipality . If unable to appear for a face-to- face interview, a friend or relative may apply for food stamps on the household's behalf. If the applicant is unable to appoint an "Authorized Representative", arrangements may be made under certain circumstances for a worker to conduct the interview at home or by telephone. SSI recipients may apply by mail or in person at their local Social Security office or the DSS service center

How long will it take to determine eligibility?.

Although an eligibility determination may take up to 30 days from the date of application, if eligible, benefits will be issued retroactively to the date the application was initially filed. In addition, an eligible food stamp household may be entitled to receive benefits on an expedited basis within 5 calendar days of the application date, provided the household's income, and available resources are within established limits during the month of application.

Once eligibility is established, recipients are issued a Benefit Identification (ID) card and are asked to select a Personal Identification Number (PIN), which is used to access benefits at any number of local retail sites throughout the county.

How do I maintain my eligibility?

Once initial eligibility is established, a redetermination for continued participation in the Food Stamp Program is conducted on a yearly basis. Each food stamp household is scheduled for a recertification interview at the end of the initial 12 month certification period in order to document changes in income, expenses, household composition or any other change in circumstances that may affect food stamp eligibility or degree of need. Food stamp recipients with earned income, however, are scheduled for a recertification interview every 6 months.

Also, certain employable household members may be required to participate in the Food Stamp Employment and Training Program as a condition of continued eligibility. It is important to note that the ultimate responsibility rests with the food stamp household in reporting changes in a timely fashion. Failure to comply in this regard, or intentionally withholding information or filing a fraudulent application, may result in food stamp penalties, including a reduction in benefits, durational sanctions or permanent disqualification.

Households where all adult members are elderly or disabled may qualify for a 24 month certification period.  Individuals who qualify for Food Stamps under the New York State Nutrition Improvement Project will be eligible for a 48 month certification period.  Call the hotline at 1-800-342-3009.