How to Apply For the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in Chicago

Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J. Media Relations Specialist
January 27, 2017

SNAP helps low income families by the food they need for good health

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly Food Stamps, helps low-income people and families buy the food needed for good health. The benefits are provided on the Illinois Link Card – an electronic card that is accepted at most grocery stores and is administered by The Department of Human Services (DHS). 

Who can receive these services?

Most households with low income can get SNAP benefits, and ACCESS’ Benefits Specialists can help you determine if you qualify. If you do meet the qualifications, we will provide you with a list of information needed to complete your application; this includes appropriate documents and proof of income.

What documents are needed to apply for SNAP?

The more information you can provide about you and/or qualifying family members, the better. This helps the application process move more quickly. We suggest supplying various types of documents such as:

  • Birth certificates
  • Social security cards
  • Proof of U.S. residency
  • Rent (3) months or mortgage receipt
  • Utility bills
  • State I.D.
  • Child support proof
  • Child care payments
  • Monthly household income (1 month) 

These documents will help fill in your application with the assistance of a Benefits Specialist. Once your application is complete, ACCESS will submit it to your local DHS office.

What happens next?

The application process begins the day your DHS office receives your signed application. You will be asked to come to the office for an interview or participate by phone if you are unable to come to the office.

You will be asked for various types of documents such as:

  • Proof of your identity
  • Proof of your residence
  • Proof of Social Security numbers for all people on your application
  • Other types of documents depending on your circumstances.

Prior to your visit, the DHS caseworker will tell you what you need to bring.  

How long until you receive benefits?

The wait time varies for each client. An individual or family that has no income might receive SNAP benefits within 45 days or less, but this can extend to two months.

What services are offered?

SNAP benefits CAN be used to buy:

  • Any food or food product for human consumption
  • Seeds and plants for use in home gardens to produce food

SNAP benefits CANNOT be used to buy:

  • Hot foods ready to eat
  • Food intended to be heated in the store
  • Lunch counter items or foods to be eaten in the store
  • Vitamins or medicines
  • Pet foods
  • Any non-food items (except seeds and plants)
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Tobacco 

Is WIC included in SNAP?

The WIC food packages provide supplemental foods designed to meet the special nutritional needs of low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and infants and children up to five years of age who are at nutritional risk. As WIC is a supplemental benefit, and a patient has to have a child or children under the age of 5, it is not included with the SNAP benefits.

It is possible to have both SNAP and WIC, but a female patient can only apply for WIC if she is pregnant, and a male or female patient needs to have a qualifying child or children.

Is there bilingual staff who can help?

At ACCESS, we have bilingual staff available to help assist with any benefits assistance. 

As a patient-centered medical home, ACCESS addresses food insecurity because it impacts many of our patients. It is important that we work to help provide resources to those who are at risk of hunger. If you need help applying, our Benefits Specialists can inform you about the services and application process. 

If you could benefit from SNAP or would like to find out more, contact ACCESS to schedule an appointment at one of our community health centers in the Chicago area.