The purpose of the food stamp interview is to verify your eligibility for the program. Most of the questions on the application will be asked again during the interview. This serves as an opportunity for the interviewer to get answers to questions you may have failed to answer on the application, clarify any issues or inconsistencies raised by your application, and review the validity of your identification and support documentation.
The location of your food stamp interview depends on your state, as procedures can vary between each. For example, in California, a food stamp interview is required to receive benefits, however, the interviewer can elect to hold it in person or over the phone. Several states, such as Pennsylvania, make it possible to upload verification documents online, and some also accept documents by fax. Sending documents this way can often eliminate the need for an in-person interview. Depending on your state, it may even eliminate the need for an interview altogether if both your application and supporting documents check out.
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During part of the interview, usually at the beginning, the interviewer will ask for proof of the personal details provided on your application. You will be asked to verify your legal name, date of birth, Social Security number, date of birth, citizenship status and address. Documents routinely accepted for these purposes include the following: passport, driver's license or identification card, Social Security card, birth certificate, military identification card, lease or mortgage agreement, voter registration card, permanent resident card, also known as a green card and utility bills.
Be prepared to answer questions related to your personal details, such as how long you have lived at your current residence.
The interviewer will inquire about your income during the interview. To prepare, gather your recent paycheck stubs and bank statements. Aim to have at least three months' worth and make sure your documentation is from the months immediately prior to the interview. Also collect your most recent income tax return. If your income includes other sources, such as child or spousal support, retirement income or Social Security payments, gather proof of this as well. Familiarize yourself with the content. Know what your monthly income is and where it comes from, as well as the total amount you've earned over the past year. The interviewer will ask you about this and look at your documentation to verify the information provided.
A portion of the interview will be devoted to uncovering your financial assets. The interviewer will want to know if you have resources at your disposal that can be used for the purchase of food. This is because food stamps are reserved for people with little to no income. The interviewer will ask if you have bank accounts, retirement funds and stocks, and what the balance in those accounts are. Don't try to guess at this information because the interviewer can, and likely will, check your answers against government databases. Review your account statements so you can readily provide this information and bring the most recent ones with you to the interview.
Expenses and Debt
To get a good idea of the money you have left over for groceries and other personal needs, the interviewer will ask about your monthly expenses and debts. Gather your recent billing statements for such things as utilities, rent or mortgage, and phone service. Payment receipts are also helpful. Make note of the money you regularly spend on everyday expenses like gasoline, medication, clothing and food. If you have children, include the money you spend on their needs, such as school supplies and daycare. Also gather information about your debts, such as credit cards and student loans. If you are not meeting your obligations, know why and how much you are coming up short. The interviewer will confirm your answers with the documents you provide.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service: SNAP - Prepare for the Interview
- U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service: 5 Easy Steps to SNAP Benefits
- Sonoma County CalFresh: Documents to Bring to Your CalFresh Interview
- GettingFoodStamps.org: Frequently Asked Questions
- California Department of Social Services: CalFresh Program
- Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare: Compass Quick Reference Guide
- Florida Department of Children and Families: General Program Information
- Michigan Department of Health and Human Services: What Happens When You Apply for Assistance?