Using Food Stamps and Common Problems to Avoid

Project Bread's FoodSource Hotline

Project Bread is here to help you navigate SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, so you can get the food resources you need today, and every day.

Read on for some tips about using SNAP and solutions to common problems new users sometimes experience.



The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, is what the old food stamps program began to be called in 2008. With SNAP, not only can you choose the groceries you want to purchase,  it also offers other benefits beyond supplemental money to purchase food.

A Sign at a Retailer - We Accept SNAP
Peru - Circa May 2018: A Sign at a Retailer - We Accept SNAP IV

Using SNAP isn’t difficult, but it is sometimes confusing for those coming to the program for the first time. Below you’ll find some pointers on using SNAP, as well as some of the most common problems that people encounter.

Ultimately, the best way to find answers to your questions about SNAP, or to determine eligibility and apply, is to call Project Bread’s FoodSource Hotline at 1.800.645.8333. In addition to the information below, you can also check out our Frequently Asked Questions about SNAP.


Mother with her boy in baby carriage in the supermarket
Mother with her boy in baby carriage in the supermarket

EBT Card

Receiving and Using Your Electronic Benefits Card to Purchase Food

Once your application for SNAP benefits has been approved, you’ll be issued an electronic benefits card that works like a debit card.

  • Once your application is approved, It can take up to 2 weeks to get your card in the mail.

  • If you do not have a mailing address, you can still get SNAP benefits, but there are additional hurdles. EBT cards are traditionally mailed out after SNAP cases are approved. You will need to go in person to apply at a local Department of Transitional Assistance office, which have reopened for limited service, to receive a card.

  • When you receive the card, you have to create a four digit personal identification number (PIN), just like a debit card PIN, before you can use the card. When you swipe the card for purchases at the store, you will be asked for the PIN. Instructions for setting up your PIN will come with your EBT card, but please call the DTA’s Assistance Line (877-382-2363) if you need help.

  • Your card will recharge every month, meaning money will be automatically put on your card every month.

  • You don’t have to spend the money all at once, it will roll over.

  • You can shop at all major supermarkets like Star Market or Walmart, and thousands of small retailers also accept SNAP. You can even purchase food online from selected retailers.

If you have any questions about using your EBT card for the first time, call the FoodSource Hotline at 1.800.645.8333. If the EBT card is not functioning properly, contact DTA’s Assistance Line at (877-382-2363).

smiling african american kid sitting in shopping trolley with pineapple in grocery store

Can I…? How do I…?

Answers to Some Common Questions Asked By People Using Snap

Project Bread’s FoodSource Hotline counselors are experts on SNAP, and they receive many of the same questions from users. Here’s answers to four that are frequently asked, but you can also find answers to other questions on our Frequently Asked Questions page.

  • Can I get SNAP even if I’m working?

    Yes, you can still get SNAP if you’re working!
  • Can I get SNAP if I own a home?

    Yes, you can still get SNAP if you own a home.
  • Am I taking benefits away from someone else who needs them more?

    Anyone who is eligible for SNAP will receive their full benefit amount. SNAP is a government-guaranteed program which means you are not taking SNAP away from anyone else because everyone who is eligible for SNAP can get it.
  • Can I get SNAP if I’m not a United States citizen?

    Many non-citizens are eligible for SNAP, call the FoodSource Hotline at 1.800.645.8333 and we can help you determine whether you’re eligible. We can help people in over 180 languages!


Common Problems

Even Though Using Snap Isn’t Difficult, Sometimes People Encounter Problems

Here’s a few problems that people sometimes have and answers to those problems. As always, call the FoodSource Hotline at 1.800.645.8333 if you need assistance. You can also find answers to other questions on our Frequently Asked Questions page.

Close-up detail of a man shopping in a supermarket
  • I forgot my PIN, what do I do?

    If you forgot your PIN, or just want to change it to one that you would prefer, call the EBT Customer Service line using the number on the back of your card (800-997-2555). 
  • How can I check the balance on my card?

    You can check the balance on your card by calling the EBT Customer Service number on back of the card (800-997-2555) and listen to your balance. You can also download the free DTA Connect Mobile App, from the Department of Transitional Assistance. You can find it at the link just given or on Google Play or the App Store.
  • How long do I get benefits before I need to recertify?

    That depends, but the DTA will mail you paperwork when it’s time to recertify. They will also mail you a reminder notice to fill out paperwork as the due date gets closer. If you ignore this paperwork DTA will stop giving you your monthly benefits, so be on the lookout for be on the lookout for a large envelope from the DTA. Call the FoodSource Hotline at 1.800.645.8333 if you have more questions about recertification.

We’re here for you!

SNAP is the best and most comprehensive nutrition benefits program in the United States, and Project Bread is happy to help anyone who needs help purchasing food determine whether they are eligible. Just give us a call at 1.800.645.8333 and one of our kind and compassionate FoodSource Hotline counselors will gladly assist you.

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Project Bread es un Socio Oficial de Alcance de SNAP del Departamento de Asistencia Transitoria (DTA).

Como Socio de Alcance de SNAP del DTA, el papel de Project Bread es facilitar que las personas en Massachusetts obtengan SNAP y prestar asistencia a quienes tengan problemas para solicitarlo.