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Food: Government Food Programs

Food Stamps


Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance


The Food Stamp Program is a federal program administered in Massachusetts by the state's Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) to provide benefits to low-income people to buy the food they need for good health.

In Massachusetts, benefits are given in electronic form on cards called Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards, which work like bank cards. The amount of Food Stamps a person or family can receive is based on income, resources, and household size.

Getting help right away — If your household has little or no money and needs help right away, ask your local Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) office about Emergency Food Stamps. You may only need to prove your identity, and you may be able to get Food Stamps within 7 days.

Restrictions — You may not use Food Stamps to buy hot foods, any food that is eaten in the store, alcoholic beverages, or non-food items.



Eligibility for Food Stamps is dependent upon income and household size, resources, immigration status, and work status.

People on the following programs generally are automatically eligible.

  • Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC)
  • Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled, and Children (EAEDC)
  • or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are generally automatically eligible.

Low-income people who are not on TAFDC often still qualify for Food Stamps.

Calculating eligibility and the amount of benefits you may receive can be complicated, but Project Bread, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit agency, offers help through the website and the FoodSource Hotline at 1-800-645-8333.

Below are some general eligibility guidelines. Please use Project Bread's hotline or website for more detailed information —

Income and Household Size

Children: If your household has at least one child age 18 or under, use the chart below.
Number of people in your household Your monthly income before taxes must be equal to or less than
1 $1,477
2 $1,990
3 $2,504
4 $3,017
5 $3,530
6 $4,044
7 $4,557
8 $5,070
For each additional person
add $ 514
Chart effective October 1, 2002 through September 30, 2003

No Children: If you live alone or with other adults and no children, use the chart below.
Number of people in your household Your monthly income before taxes must be equal to or less than
1 $ 960
2 $1,294
3 $1,628
4 $1,961
5 $2,295
6 $2,629
7 $2,962
8 $3,296
For each additional person
add $ 334
Chart effective October 1, 2002 through September 30, 2003.


A household may have up to $2,000 in countable resources, or $3,000 if one member is disabled or age 60 or older.

Resources that count toward calculating eligibility include:

  • cash
  • money in bank accounts
  • stocks and bonds
  • in some cases, real estate — other than your home and surrounding lot
  • in some cases, vehicles.

Resources that generally do NOT count include:

  • your home and lot
  • household goods and personal belongings
  • life insurance policies
  • most retirement and pension plans.


Eligible persons:

  • United States citizens or nationals
  • Legal permanent residents who have a record of working in the United States for 40 quarters (about 10 years) or whose spouse or parents have a work record of the same amount of time
  • People who came to the United States as refugees and some types of immigrants
  • People who were living legally in the United States on August 22, 1996, and either - were born on or before August 22, 1931 or - are now receiving disability payments or - are now under the age of 18
  • Legal immigrants who meet the program's requirements and are receiving disability benefits (such as Supplemental Security Income or disability-related Medicaid)

NOT eligible:

  • Undocumented non-citizens
  • People here on a visa
  • People under order of deportation

End of Massachusetts' State Supplemental Food Stamp Program State-funded food stamps for legal immigrants in Massachusetts ended in August, 2002. For more information, please call Project Bread's FoodSource Hotline at 1-800-645-8333.

Citizenship applications — Since Food Stamps are a non-cash benefit, documented immigrants may apply for them without becoming a public charge and jeopardizing their application for citizenship.

Other household members may apply — Immigrants who are not eligible themselves can still apply for other household members, such as citizen or eligible immigrant children. The adult/parent does not need to indicate or provide documentation of their own status! If asked, they can decline to do so.


With some exceptions, able-bodied adults aged 16 to 60 must register for work, accept an offer of suitable work, and take part in an employment and training program to which they will be referred by the Food Stamp office.

With some exceptions, able-bodied adults aged 18 to 50 who do not have any dependent children and are not pregnant can only get Food Stamps for 3 months in a 3-year period unless they are working or participating in a work or workfare program.


$ Free

Action Steps


Determining eligibility

To find out if you are eligible, call the Project Bread FoodSource Hotline between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday or 8:00 a.m to 8:00 p.m. on Thursday at 1-800-645-8333.

If you are eligible, you must complete an application form and, in most cases, go to the local Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) office for a meeting with a caseworker. To find your local office, click here —

Obtaining an application

  • Project Bread's FoodSource Hotline can mail you an application: 1-800-645-8333
  • You can obtain one at the local Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) office.
  • You can print one from the website —
3. Completing the application — The application has two parts, the Request for Assistance (the first 4 pages) and the Food Stamp Benefits Application. Fill out as much of the Request for Assistance as you can, and take or send it to the local Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) office as soon as possible. Food Stamp caseworkers will help you fill out the Food Stamp Benefits Application when you meet with them. Also, Project Bread can direct you to local outreach workers in the Boston area who will assist you with the application process.

Meeting with a caseworker — You may be scheduled for a meeting with a caseworker either on the same day that you visit your local Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) office or on a later date. When you do meet with a caseworker, you will need to bring the documents listed below — What to Bring When You Apply.

After the meeting, the office will send you a notice telling you whether you qualify. If you qualify for regular Food Stamps, DTA must give them to you no later than 30 days after it receives your application.

Local DTA offices must allow a waiver of the in-person interview for applicants who are elderly or disabled or have other hardships such as transportation problems or work or training hours that conflict with DTA office hours. If this applies to you, ask how to mail in your application at your local DTA office or the Project Bread FoodSource Hotline at 1-800-645-8333.

What to Bring

Proof of identity for the head of the household, for example, a driver's license, birth certificate, or voting record

Proof of residency

  • If you own your home, bring proof of your mortgage taxes and insurance.
  • If you rent, bring a lease or rent receipt.
Proof of utilities if claiming actual utility costs, such as gas, electric, and telephone bills
Social Security numbers for each household member applying for Food Stamps
Proof of citizenship or immigration status for each household member applying for Food Stamps. If eligible immigrant or citizen children are the only ones applying, provide status for only them.
Proof of countable resources, such as bank account statements and bank books.
Proof of earned and unearned income, such as your last 4 pay stubs, most recent copy of Social Security check, last 2 stubs from unemployment, worker's compensation, pension, child support, or alimony
Proof of dependent care costs for a child or adult if claimed, such as a written statement from the care provider or a canceled check paid to the care provider
Proof of out-of-pocket medical expenses, if elderly or claiming disability
Proof of age or disability, if claimed


The Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) will tell you when and how often your Food Stamps case needs to be renewed ("recertified"). You can recertify by mail, or you may be sent a notice asking you to go to the local DTA office for an appointment. Talk with your DTA caseworker about this.


For applicants on Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC), you may still be eligible for Food Stamps even when your TAFDC time runs out or if you have lost your TAFDC benefits.
You have the right to have your application accepted by the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) on the same day you apply, even before you meet with a caseworker.
You can turn in your application incomplete-the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) cannot deny your application if you are missing information. Only your name, address, and signature need to be complete in order for the DTA to accept your application.
You can have an adult you trust apply for you as your "authorized representative." For example, if you are disabled, your representative can apply for and use Food Stamps on your behalf.
You have the right to prove your income, expenses, and identity in more than one way. For example, to prove your identity, you can provide either a driver's license or birth certificate.
If English is not your primary language, the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) must provide an interpreter.
If you are eligible for Food Stamps, the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) must provide the benefits within 30 days, or within 7 days if you qualify for emergency Food Stamps.
You have the right to see your case file and make copies of the information in your file.
If Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) is going to decrease or stop your food stamps, they need to send you a letter ten days before they do this. The letter must say why they are decreasing or stopping your food stamps and tell you about your right to appeal the decision.
If you disagree with the Department of Transitional Assistance's (DTA's) decisions or actions in your Food Stamp case, you have the right to have a fair hearing. To begin the appeals process, call Fair Hearings at 1-800-882-2017.

Internet Resources

Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance
Project Bread


  This information was updated October 1, 2002.
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