The state of North Carolina offers many different food assistance programs for those who cannot afford to feed everyone within his or her household. There are different programs for different income levels, and those in need of food assistance may not qualify for every program. However, there are enough opportunities that those who require food assistance should not worry about their eligibility. Different programs are offered for people and families of varying income levels, qualifying children in school, pregnant and nursing women and others. The state also offers nutrition programs to promote healthy eating for those who apply for food assistance from the state so families can learn how to best use their assistance money to promote healthy eating within the household. Read the sections below to learn about the benefits, eligibility and availability of food assistance programs offered in the state of North Carolina.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in North Carolina
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP, is the most common method of food assistance in the United States. Beneficiary funds are distributed monthly to an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card to purchase food in a variety of pre-approved sellers. Benefits cannot be used to buy any form of tobacco, alcohol, animal or pet food, paper products or soap products. Certain brands of food are also not qualified for purchase with EBT benefits. It is important that those who receive SNAP assistance make sure that everything they need is applicable for payment using the EBT card.
Eligibility requirements include yearly income limits based on the number of people in the household. While income is one of the primary considerations, there are other factors that are considered. Applicants must also either be United States citizens or legal immigrants. Failure to have legal presence within the United States and residency in the state of North Carolina immediately terminates eligibility.
Once the application is approved, the applicant will receive their EBT card in which their monthly benefits are loaded. Benefits are distributed on the same day each month, even if that day is a holiday or a weekend. The specific day in which a beneficiary will receive his or her monthly EBT funding is determined by the last number of his or her Social Security Number.
North Carolina Supplemental Nutrition for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC Program)
The WIC program (Women, Infants, and Children) allows for food assistance, education and pre- and post-labor services for an expecting or new mother and her child or children. Maternal services include information and resources concerning breastfeeding, nutritional supplements, and healthcare provider referrals. Healthcare services are provided by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services’ Nutrition Services Branch.
To be considered eligible for the program, applicants must be a legal resident of the United States and North Carolina; a pregnant, breastfeeding or postpartum mother; an infant or a child up to five years of age. Income eligibility is also a factor in determining if a mother or child can receive WIC benefits. Applicants must also go through a health evaluation by a licensed WIC professional in which the professional determines that the applicant is facing a risk of proper nutrition to qualify for nutritional supplements and other healthcare assistance.
North Carolina School Breakfast and Lunch Meal Programs
North Carolina offers meal programs through its public and private school systems. The program may also be offered in nonprofit child care institutions. The National School Lunch Program is a federally-funded, state-administrated meal program that provides low-cost or no cost lunches to low-income children daily. All children are given the application for the free meal program at the beginning of school. Children who qualify return the forms and, upon approval, are enrolled into the program. Most schools also include a breakfast option for children.
Many schools also offer an after-school snack program, which is federally-funded as well. This program offers nutritious snacks to children who are enrolled in afterschool care at their school or participate in afterschool activities.
The North Carolina Summer Food Service Program, a subset of the National Breakfast and School Lunch program, is a food assistance program aimed at giving meals to children who normally receive free or reduced school lunches during the school year in the summer, when schools are not in session. This is designed to promote nutrition among school-aged children while simultaneously helping families with low incomes stretch their dollars throughout the summer by providing at least one free meal per day.
The program operates through public programs and areas, including playgrounds, day camps, church programs and other community facilities. The meals are usually combined with other child-friendly activities to encourage use by families in need. Furthermore, many schools in NC have implemented a fresh fruit and vegetable program which offers free fresh fruits and vegetables to children throughout the day.