top of page


Paying for Groceries
Grocery Shopping

What is SNAP?

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly called Food Stamps, is the largest federal program aimed at combating hunger and food insecurity. SNAP eligibility and benefit levels are based on household size, income and other factors. SNAP awards eligible students up to $250 per month for groceries.

How does SNAP work?

SNAP benefits are provided through an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card, similar to a bank debit card or credit card. If you are eligible, an EBT account is set up for you, and every month your benefits will be deposited right into your account. EBT cards can be used to purchase food at many grocery stores and farmers markets such as Anabel’s Groceries right here on campus, Tops, Wegmans, Walmart, Target, Greenstar, etc.

Expanded SNAP Eligibility for College Students!

As a result of a federal policy change, thousands of college students are now eligible to apply for SNAP. This policy change temporarily expands SNAP eligibility for college students and permits the following two groups to apply for SNAP:

  • college students who are eligible to participate in federal work study (active participation in work study is not required) and

  • college students who have an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) of $0.                               


This expansion follows a New York State October 2020 policy change that permits students enrolled half-time or more in Cornell University to apply for SNAP.

apply for snap!


Check if you’re eligible to receive SNAP benefits using the checklist below.

You can also text "snapcornell" to 607-558- 2161 and answer a few questions to check your eligibility .


Follow the option below that describes you best.



I'm Eligible, I Want to Apply Myself

  • Apply online directly to the NY State website

  • Fill out and submit application in-person at any of these locations: 

    • Tompkins County DSS (Department of Social Services) 

      • 320 West State St, Ithaca NY 14850

      • Phone: (607)274-5680

    • Catholic Charities

      • 324 West Buffalo St. Ithaca NY 14850

      • Phone: (607)272-5062


I’m Eligible, I would like help applying:

  • Please reach out to Amber Podolec with all inquiries regarding SNAP. Amber works for the Tompkins County Catholic Charities and helps people apply for SNAP in the county. Amber has helped hundreds of Cornell students apply for SNAP!

  • Email:

  • Phone Number: (607)272-5062 ext. 21

  • You can sign up for SNAP Drop-in Hours to chat one-on-one with Amber!

  • You can also schedule office hours with the Office of Student Advocate to receive assistance.


I'm Not Eligible, Direct Me to Other Resources: 

If you have any questions regarding SNAP or need further assistance, please reach out to the Office of Student Advocate (OSA) with any inquiries You can also schedule appointments with OSA’s office hours to get assistance.

Frequently asked questions

How long does it take for a SNAP application to get approved?

It usually takes 30 days for SNAP applications to get approved. Caseworkers from the Tompkins County Department of Social Services (DSS) will be reviewing and approving your application.

What if 30 days is too long of a wait for my situation?

Social workers can expedite the application process. This may take 7 days compared to 30 days. If you don’t have a current job, the process is expedited automatically. You can find out more about the expedite process in this link (under what are emergency SNAP benefits).

How will I be notified for the interview once I submit my application?

DSS will notify you of your interview date through mail. DSS mainly communicates through physical mail, we recommend you keep an eye-out in the mail to receive updates on your application.

My parents receive SNAP and count me as part of the household. Am I still eligible to receive SNAP?

If your family counts you as a member of the household in their SNAP application, you are not eligible to receive SNAP. You will have to update your family’s SNAP information and exclude yourself from the household in order to receive SNAP benefits on your own as a college student. You cannot be counted as part of two SNAP accounts, discuss with your family to make arrangements that best meet your needs. Note: SNAP can be used across the country. You can use your family’s SNAP information to make online purchases with retailers such as Walmart that accept electronic EBT payments.

How will I know that I have been approved for SNAP benefits?

If DSS determines that you are eligible for SNAP, you will receive your benefits within 30 days. All SNAP applicants who have been approved for benefits will receive an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card in the mail. An EBT card can be used in participating stores and farmers markets just like a debit card. You will need to follow the instructions on the EBT card to activate your card to start making purchases.

I’m an undocumented/DACA student. Can I receive SNAP?

Only U.S. citizens and certain lawfully-present non-citizens may receive SNAP benefits. Non-citizens who are eligible based on their immigration status must also meet other SNAP eligibility requirements such as income and resource limits. More information is available about non-citizen eligibility

Regardless of your immigration status, there are other resources available that can support your needs. You can email to get connected with more resources. 

Why is SNAP important for college students?

SNAP can alleviate food insecurity and provide students with healthy food options at the grocery store. Since the U.S. is in the state of emergency, students are automatically provided $250 (the max amount of benefits) when approved for SNAP/EBT.


Over the last decade, multiple studies of food insecurity among college students have found rates from 20% to more than 50%, considerably higher than the 12% rate for the entire US population. (cite: )


Reasons for higher rates of food insecurity among college students include a growing population of low-income college students, high college costs and insufficient financial aid, more financial hardship among many low- and moderate-income families, a weak labor market for part-time workers, declining per capita college resources, and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) policies that specifically exclude many college students from participation.

How can I use SNAP benefits? What can I purchase?

You can purchase food for the household, such as: Fruits and vegetables; Meat, poultry, and fish; Dairy products; Breads and cereals; Other foods such as snack foods and non-alcoholic beverages; and Seeds and plants, which produce food for the household to eat.


You cannot use SNAP benefits to buy: Beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes, or tobacco, Vitamins, medicines, live animals (except shellfish, fish removed from water, and animals slaughtered prior to pick-up from the store), prepared Foods fit for immediate consumption, Hot foods, Any nonfood items such as Pet foods, Cleaning supplies, paper products, and other household supplies. Hygiene items, cosmetics

Can I use SNAP benefits to shop online?

You can use your SNAP benefits at limited stores to shop online for fresh produce and groceries! Participating online stores now accept SNAP benefits for online orders and will deliver to you. Use your EBT card to shop securely for fresh produce and groceries at these participating stores in the area: Amazon, ShopRite, Walmart


Note: SNAP benefits cannot be used to pay delivery fees. Be sure to confirm an online store delivers to your home address.

How do you check your SNAP balance?

The best way to check your balance is to refer to your last receipt of your SNAP purchase. Your grocery store receipt should include your SNAP balance at the bottom.


The App called Providers also allows you to see your EBT balance on your phone. It's a great resource to keep track of how much balance you have on your SNAP account before you start shopping.

Can I still apply for SNAP for myself if my family counts me as a dependent for tax purposes?

Yes! As long as you are living independently and shopping and preparing meals separately from your family, you count as your own SNAP household. However, you can’t be counted as part of two SNAP households at once, so make sure if your family receives SNAP, they let their caseworker know to remove you from their household before applying on your own.

Do I need to meet one of the student eligibility exemptions (EFC of $0 or qualifying for federal work-study) AND income guidelines, or just one or the other?

To be eligible for SNAP, you will need to meet both an exemption criterion and income guidelines. Keep in mind that you only need to count your own individual income when applying for yourself, though, and loans do not count as income.

Will my benefits be discontinued when the expanded student exemptions end at the end of the federal public health emergency?

Anyone who is already enrolled when the federal public health emergency ends will continue to receive benefits until their next recertification period (a year from enrollment). There is also the possibility that the exemptions will be expanded more permanently through legislation, but there is no guarantee.

If I live with roommates, do they count as part of my household?

You can apply for just yourself even if you live with roommates–you only need to count others as members of your household if you do all your shopping and meal preparation together.

What factors impact a household’s eligibility for SNAP benefits?

There are several factors that impact a household’s eligibility for SNAP benefits such as: Monthly income (earned and unearned) and Loans (including educational) Do Not Count as Income, Household size (Roommates that do not share food are not to be counted in the household), Age of those applying, Disability status of household members, Shelter and utility expenses, Student eligibility rules, Immigration status.


If you have any questions regarding SNAP or need further assistance, please reach out to the Office of Student Advocate (OSA) with any inquiries You can also schedule appointments with OSA’s office hours to get assistance.​


Check out the official NY state website’s FAQ page for more information on SNAP benefits: 

College Students
Fruits and Vegetables
bottom of page