Can You Get Food Stamps at 18? Exploring Eligibility and Benefits

Can You Get Food Stamps at 18? Exploring Eligibility and Benefits

The Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) intends to help people from going hungry in the U.S. The program is for people aged 16 to 59, but getting food stamps does come with several requirements.

Can you get food stamps at 18? Exploring eligibility and benefits will help you understand if you qualify for assistance.

1.     Food Stamp Eligibility at 18

Food stamp eligibility in the United States is based on various factors. These include income, household size, expenses, and other circumstances. Eligibility is not determined solely by age, so at 18, you can qualify for SNAP benefits if you meet the program’s requirements.

Here are some key factors that influence SNAP eligibility:


Your income must be at or below a certain threshold determined by the federal poverty guidelines. The exact income limits can vary by state and change annually. Some states have different guidelines for elderly or disabled individuals.

Household Size

The number of people in your household is a significant factor in determining eligibility. A bigger household may have a higher income threshold for qualification.


Certain expenses, like rent or mortgage, utilities, and childcare costs, get considered when calculating eligibility. Higher expenses may allow for a higher income and still qualify for SNAP.

Citizenship and Immigration Status

U.S. citizens and qualifying non-citizens are eligible for SNAP benefits. The eligibility of non-citizens may depend on their immigration status and how long they have lived in the U.S. For example, undocumented immigrants can’t apply. Documented immigrants must reside for at least five years to receive benefits except for some exceptions like asylum receivers, refugees, and children.

Work Requirements

For individuals aged 18 to 49 without dependents, work requirements may typically involve participating in an employment or training program or meeting specific work-related criteria.

It’s essential to contact your local SNAP office or visit their website to determine your specific eligibility based on your circumstances and your state’s guidelines. Eligibility can vary from state to state, and there may be additional considerations depending on your situation.

The application process usually involves providing information about your income, household members, and expenses, and your eligibility will be determined based on that information.

2.     Applying for Food Stamps at 18

If you are 18 years old and need to apply for food stamps in the United States, you can follow these steps:

  1. Check Your Eligibility: To be eligible, you must check that you meet the requirements, including income, household size, and other criteria.
  2. Gather Required Documents: Collect the necessary documents and information, such as proof of identity, Social Security number, proof of income, proof of expenses, and any relevant documentation specific to your situation.
  3. Apply Online or In Person:


  • Online Application: Most states offer an online application option through their SNAP websites. You can visit your state’s Department of Social Services or Human Services website to
  • In-Person Application: To apply, visit your local SNAP or social services office in person. You will receive a paper application to complete and assistance with the process.
  • Phone Application: Check with your state’s SNAP office to see if they offer a phone application option.
  1. Complete the Application: Provide all the required information and documents accurately when applying. Double-check the information for completeness and accuracy.
  2. Interview: You will likely need to participate in an interview with a caseworker to discuss your application. This interview can be in person, over the phone, or online.
  3. Wait for a Decision: Once you complete the process, wait for the SNAP office to process your application and decide.
  4. Receive Notification: You’ll receive a notice from the SNAP office indicating whether your application has been approved or denied. If approved, the notice will specify the benefits you’ll receive and the distribution frequency.
  5. Receive EBT Card: You will receive an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card if approved. You use this card to purchase eligible food items at authorized retailers.

It’s important to note that you can apply for food stamps at 18, and your eligibility depends on your circumstances, income, and household size. The application process may vary slightly from state to state. Refer to your state’s specific SNAP program website or contact your local SNAP office for more about applying for food stamps as an 18-year-old in your state.

3.     Understanding the Requirements at 18

Understanding the food stamp requirements at 18 is essential for young adults seeking assistance. Here are some key points to help you understand the requirements:

Age Requirement

You must be 18 years old to apply for SNAP benefits as an adult. You may also be eligible if you are under 18 and not living with your parents or in a situation where they buy and prepare your meals.

Income Eligibility

Food stamp eligibility is primarily based on your income and must be within the program’s income limits. Federal poverty guidelines determine the income limits and can vary from year to year. If you earn too much, you may not be eligible.

Household Size

The number of people in your household is a significant factor in determining eligibility. Your household includes those you live with and buy and prepare food together. A larger household may have a higher income threshold for qualification.

Work Requirements

You may be subject to work requirements if you are 18 to 49, able-bodied, and without dependents (ABAWD). ABAWDs are generally required to work or participate in a work-related activity for several hours monthly to maintain SNAP eligibility. However, some areas may have waivers for these requirements.

Read more about the work requirements to get food stamps for longer than three months within the three-year time limit here on the USDA page on its Food and Nutrition Service. You can also see if you can be excused from the able-bodied adult work requirement and time limit. For example, if you are homeless, a veteran, have limitations that make it impossible for you to work or are under 24 and were in foster care on your 18th birthday.


Students attending college between the ages of 18 and 49 can qualify for food stamps explicitly designed for people who are in school. However, they must meet the requirements.

Their family income determines these, and they must meet at least one exemption. They must also apply in their state, even if their college is elsewhere. InCharge provides a list of the exemptions for college students.

Citizenship and Immigration Status

U.S. citizens and qualifying non-citizens are only eligible for these food stamp benefits. Additionally, some non-citizens may be eligible according to their immigration status and how long they have lived in the U.S.

Asset Limits

SNAP also considers the value of your assets, such as cash, bank accounts, and property. Some states have asset limits, but many have raised or eliminated them for most households.

Monthly Expenses

Certain expenses are considered when calculating eligibility. These include rent or mortgage, utilities, and dependent care costs. You may still be eligible for SNAP if your expenses indicate a higher income.

We accept food stamps sign seen in the front of the store

4.     How to Get Food Stamps at 18

USA Today recently published the changes to the food stamp requirements that went into effect from September 1, 2023. These are the most significant changes made to SNAP in a decade.

Here’s the changes you must know about at 18:

  • Childless workers between 18 and 52 must show they work at least 80 hours a month or have enrolled in an education or training program from October 1, 2023.
  • From October 1, 2024, the age range increases from 18 to 54.
  • These new requirements will remain in effect until October 1, 2030.
  • People without housing, veterans, and adults 18 to 24 coming out of foster care are exempt from the new requirements.

5.     Benefits of Applying for Food Stamps at 18

Applying for food stamps can offer several benefits to eligible individuals and households:

Access to Nutritious Food: SNAP helps individuals and families afford essential, nutritious food, ensuring a balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and protein sources.

Reduced Food Insecurity: SNAP can significantly reduce food insecurity triggered by a lack of access to a diet that promotes an active and healthy life. Through the program, recipients have a reliable source of food.

Improved Health: Access to nutritious food through food stamps can lead to better overall health for young adults.

Economic Stability: SNAP can help individuals and families experiencing financial hardship by freeing up funds for other necessary expenses like housing, utilities, and transportation.

Boost to Local Economies: The money is spent in local communities, supporting local grocery stores, supermarkets, and farmers’ markets, boosting the local economy and creating jobs.

Nutrition Education: Some SNAP programs offer nutrition education and counseling services to help recipients make healthier food choices and improve eating habits.

Temporary Assistance: Food stamps are often seen as temporary assistance to help individuals or families through a difficult period. It can be a lifeline during unexpected financial crises, such as job loss, medical emergencies, or natural disasters, especially for the young, homeless, and other vulnerable populations.

Support for Low-Income Workers: Many SNAP recipients are employed but have low incomes. These benefits can support young working individuals struggling to make ends meet.

Supplemental Assistance: Food stamps supplement an individual’s or family’s budget, ensuring they have enough resources to cover their food needs.

Disabled Individuals: SNAP supports disabled young people who may have limited resources and face additional challenges in acquiring food.

It’s important to note that SNAP benefits are determined according to income, household size, and other factors, and eligibility criteria vary by state. Contact your state office to get more information about your eligibility.

6.     Tips for a Successful Food Stamp Application at 18

If you’re 18 and seeking to apply for food stamps (SNAP), here are some tips to help you successfully navigate the application process:


  • Determine your eligibility criteria online or by asking at your local SNAP office. These include your income, household size, and other factors.
  • Gather the information and necessary documents needed for the application process. Usually, these include your proof of identity, Social Security number, proof of income, proof of expenses, and other documentation specific to your situation.
  • Apply at your state office or online. Online applications are usually speedier.
  • Ensure the information on your application is correct and all fields completed. Attach all your required documents. Failure to ensure everything is accurate and complete slows the process and may lead to rejection.
  • Keep a record of your application process. You might need these to resolve an issue.
  • You’ll often be required to participate in an interview with a caseworker. Be prepared to discuss your financial situation and provide any additional information requested.
  • Waiting periods depend on the workload of your state office. You can contact your local SNAP office to find out the status of your application if you haven’t heard anything in the expected timeframe.
  • Budget wisely once you receive your food stamps to ensure you have enough to last throughout the month. Additionally, familiarize yourself with the eligible food items and plan your purchases accordingly.
  • If your financial situation changes while receiving SNAP benefits, report these changes to the SNAP office as soon as possible to avoid overpayments or underpayments.
  • If you’re subject to work requirements as an Able-Bodied Adult Without Dependents (ABAWD), attend required workshops and training, or meet the work-related criteria to maintain your SNAP eligibility.

7.     Common Questions about Food Stamps at 18

Here are some of the most common questions young people ask about food stamps:

Can students get food stamps?

Generally, if you are at a college, university, or trade/technical school, you are only eligible for SNAP if you meet an exemption. You must meet the half-time enrollment criteria, which can change from one institution to another. Students with an exemption requirement must also meet all other eligibility requirements for food stamps.

How can you use SNAP benefits?

Food stamps are a form of payment used at any SNAP retailer with certification from the USDA. These retailers must continuously sell at least seven food varieties in each of the four basic categories. These are proteins (meat, poultry, fish), starches (bread or cereal), dairy products, and fruits and vegetables. The retailer must sell perishable food items in at least three of those four categories.

What can’t you buy with food stamps?

You cannot purchase alcohol products, tobacco, nonfood items, vitamins, medicines, in-store meals, or hot foods with your good stamps.

How long will I get my food stamp benefits?

SNAP benefits vary since they depend on the number of people within your household, your employment status as the recipient, your age and health, etc. You get the benefits for three months as a healthy adult between 18 and 50 (without children). After that, you must apply for its renewal. Most households get 6-month benefits before needing to apply for a renewal. Benefit periods differ and can range from 1 month to 3 years, depending on the circumstances.

8.     Exploring the Possibility of Food Stamps at 18

If you are 18 and need assistance to ensure access to nutritious food, then it’s worth exploring the possibility of food stamps.

First, ensure eligibility by contacting your state office and using online resources. Once you have gathered all the information, you can complete an online application in your state. If you are unsure of the process, contact social services agencies, community centers or nonprofits in your area that assist with SNAP applications.

Before filing your completed application, ensure you have thoroughly checked that you have provided the correct information and required documents. Additionally, be prepared for the potential interview to discuss your applications.

Remember that eligibility criteria and application procedures may vary by state, so it’s essential to refer to your state’s specific SNAP program website or contact your local SNAP office for detailed guidance on exploring the possibility of food stamps at 18 in your area. The key is to provide accurate information and follow the application process diligently to determine your eligibility and access the support you need for food assistance.

Be patient and stay informed while waiting for your application to be finalized. Once you receive the food stamps, remember that you can only use them for your food requirements at an approved retailer. Finally, ensure you submit for renewal if needed when the period of help lapses.