North Carolina's Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) program—commonly called "food stamps"—is designed for low-income families and intended to end hunger and improve nutrition and health. The programs help individuals and families with limited financial resources purchase the food they need to maintain a healthy lifestyle and makes sure that nobody in the state goes hungry.
Whether you're just moving to the state or have been a long-term resident who's recently come into financial troubles that prevent you from feeding yourself or your family, applying to the FNS program could help you afford to put food on the table again.
Once you've confirmed through the NC Department of Social Services that you are eligible to apply by taking a food stamps eligibility test, you can head to your local social services to apply. If approved, the funds will be issued via an Electronic Benefits Transfer card (EBT cards), as paper checks are no longer mailed out.
Eligibility and What You'll Need to Apply
You'll need only a few things to apply for food stamp benefits in North Carolina, which includes proof of your identity, address, age, Social Security number, work status, health status, income, assets and resources, and your gas and electric bills.
Once you have everything lined up, fill out the Application for FNS to begin the application process for your household online or in person.
In order to apply, you'll need to qualify under North Carolina DSS guidelines, which define a "household" as:
- Individuals living together who purchase and or prepare their food together or will do so upon receipt of food assistance
- Spouses who are living together or individuals that represent themselves as husband and wife to the community
- Individuals under the age of 22 who are still living with a parent
- Individuals under the age of 18 who are under the parental control of an adult living in the home; or
- Two unmarried adults who are living in the same home and who are parents of a mutual child
Please note that every single member of a household must be a United States citizen or an eligible immigrant to receive food stamps assistance.
Limitations and Extent of Benefits
The general rule is that a household must be considered "low income" to receive benefits. For a household with four members, the limit is usually about $2,500 per month. Also, your liquid resources (cash, checking, and savings accounts) can't be more than a limit of about $2,000. These amounts are higher if your household has a disabled person or an elderly person over 60. Certain resources, such as homes, buildings, and land property, are not factored into that amount.
The amount that you can receive is calculated based on your overall household income. This means everyone that works in your house, family or not. Funds are issued to an "EBT" card that functions just like a debit card. The amount you receive depends on the size of your household and your monthly income. For example, a family of four will receive around $640 maximum while a family of two (say a single parent and child) will receive about $350.
In terms of what you can and cannot purchase, most food items are covered, but you can't buy alcohol, tobacco, paper products, soap, or pet food with your EBT card.
Some individuals will qualify for emergency assistance and receive benefits within seven days of applying. By law, you will either receive your benefits or a notice that you're not eligible within 30 days of application.
Complaints and Contact Information
For basic questions and information, there is a call center that can help you. If you have a complaint or an issue, you will have to fill out the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form. You may also write a letter containing all of the information requested in the form and send it to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.