SNAP and Your Local Food Bank: How Both Help Those in Need

Project Bread's FoodSource Hotline


The key difference between SNAP and Food Banks

Food Banks provide people with food. SNAP provides people with money to purchase food.  Both have an important role.

Senior couple unpacking groceries in the kitchen
Senior couple preparing food in the kitchen. An old man and woman inside the house.

The role of SNAP

SNAP is a federal nutrition program. SNAP stands for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and it provides eligible residents with monthly financial assistance to purchase groceries Because SNAP does not rely on charitable donations, it is a sustainable solution to help people afford enough to eat. Also anyone eligible for SNAP benefits will receive them. Getting SNAP does not take anything away from anyone else.

Everyone who completes the full SNAP application process - and is eligible - will receive SNAP benefits. Once enrolled, you receive a monthly funds on an EBT card that can be used just like a debit card for food shopping.

SNAP gives you the freedom to shop for your own food — food that you like, that meets your dietary needs, allergy restrictions, and cultural preferences.

You can use SNAP to buy food at most places groceries are sold — grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations, pharmacies, and even online with some major retailers. You can also shop at some farmer's markets, farm stands, and co-op programs and get reimbursed on your produce purchase through the Healthy Incentives Program (HIP), giving you more money (SNAP benefits) each month to purchase food.

If you want to learn if you are eligible for SNAP, you can call Project Bread’s FoodSource Hotline. A hotline counselors will prescreen you to determine if you are eligible for benefits and if so, for how much. They can also help you apply. In some cases, a household may not be eligible for any funds but still qualify as a SNAP participant. Our Hotline counselors can work with you to make sure that no matter how much you are eligible to receive, you are aware of all the food assistance and benefits available to you.

The role of Food Banks

The most notable importance of Food Banks is this. Not everyone is eligible for SNAP. And even those who are, the supplemental benefit amount may not be enough to afford all the food they need for their household each month — particularly toward the end of a month. 

Local food banks are dedicated to providing nutritious food to individuals and families from low-income households and those who struggle to have enough to eat.

Food banks work in partnership with food and fund donors, volunteers, businesses, and community leaders to provide donated food to community partners. Donated food is distributed to food pantries, soup kitchens, meal programs, senior centers, and more. Food banks are a great resource to have in our communities. They are able to source larger quantities of food at discounted prices, and they provide the bedrock of the local food pantry supplies because they provide consistent amounts of shelf staples to food pantries, unlike donations which vary wildly by season. For example, the Greater Boston Food Bank passes nearly 100 million pounds of healthy food through to 600 partner agencies and direct distribution sites across eastern Massachusetts, with pick ups arranged through a comprehensive online inventory system. Last year, they reported distributing 117 million pounds of healthy food, the equivalent of 96 million meals.

Project Bread's FoodSource Hotline counselors can also connect callers to local food pantries and community meal sites, calling is always free and confidental and is a service to all residents in Massachusetts.

project bread snap enrollment coordinator community health center

In 2022, Project Bread's FoodSource Hotline has already responded to 17,543 food assistance calls state-wide, and we’re waiting for your call next!

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Project Bread’s FoodSource Hotline screens households to determine if they're eligible for SNAP and helps them apply. Callers receive personalized, compassionate help from our trained staff, who connect them to every food assistance program that is available and for which they are eligible, as well as to all the local resources providing emergency groceries and meals near them. Project Bread's FoodSource Hotline is a great resource that people can turn to for comprehensive information in Massachusetts. Our counselors work diligently to ensure callers get their needs met.

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Project Bread is an official SNAP Outreach Partner of The Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA).

As a SNAP Outreach Partner of DTA, Project Bread's role is to make it easier for people in Massachusetts to get SNAP and help anyone having trouble applying.