You can use the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to buy food. The money comes from the federal government but is administered by the Illinois Department of Human Services. Every month, your SNAP benefits are automatically put on a LINK card and can be used to buy food at approved locations. There are different rules if there is an elderly or disabled member of your household. See details here.
SNAP—Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (formerly Food Stamps) helps low income people and families buy the food they need for good health. Benefits are provided on the Illinois Link Card – an electronic card that is accepted at most grocery stores.
Cash Assistance— Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) provides temporary financial and Healthcare Coverage for pregnant women and families with one or more dependent children. TANF provides financial assistance to pay for food, shelter, utilities and expenses other than medical.
Aid to the Aged, Blind and Disabled (AABD) Cash is for people who are aged, blind and/or disabled and need money. A person who is eligible for the AABD Cash program receives cash and Healthcare Coverage.
Healthcare Coverage— Illinois offers coverage to eligible children, adults, seniors and people with disabilities. These programs provide access to health care at a reasonable cost.
The application for SNAP, Cash Assistance, and Healthcare Coverage assistance is at https://abe.illinois.gov/abe/access/
What SNAP can be used for
SNAP benefits can be used to buy foods for the household to eat, such as:
- breads and cereals;
- fruits and vegetables;
- meats, fish, and poultry; and
- dairy products.
- Seeds and plants which produce food for the household to eat.
SNAP benefits also can also be used to pay for:
- group community dining,
- meals at approved shelters, restaurants, treatment centers, and group living homes, and
- Food from certified farmers markets and farm stands.
Some markets and food stands participate in a Double Value Coupon Program which allows Link card users to receive twice the dollar value when purchasing approved foods. A list of farmers markets and farm stands that accept link benefits can be found here.
Restaurant Meals Program
The Restaurant Meals Program started on January 1, 2020. That program allows certain people to use their SNAP benefits at restaurants. This includes people who are:
- 60 years old or over,
- Veterans (and their children), or
It also includes their spouses.
What SNAP cannot be used for
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
Any nonfood items, such as:
- pet foods
- soaps and paper products
- household supplies
- Alcoholic beverages
- Cigarettes or tobacco
Women, Infants, and Children Assistance (“WIC”)— WIC is a food assistance program for Women, Infants, and Children. It helps pregnant women, new mothers and young children eat well and stay healthy.
- Use the DHS Office Locator to find your local Women, Infants and Children office near you. Make an appointment and find out what papers or documents you need to bring with you. At your appointment, WIC staff will check to see if you and your family qualify. If you need assistance, contact the State WIC Office at (217) 782-2166.
List of Food Pantries in Illinois can be found at https://www.dhs.state.il.us/page.aspx?item=31245