What is Basic Food?


Basic Food (also known as SNAP or Food Stamps) is the Washington equivalent of The US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This program serves low income households with a monthly food allowance.

Eligibility for Basic Food is based on your monthly income (before taxes) and your household size. Your rent and child care, as well as any other regular expenses are also used to determine your benefits. When you apply for SNAP, you can also apply for other benefits such as cash assistance, child care subsidy, Medicaid (age 65+), and long-term care.

You can estimate your benefit amount with the Washington State Benefit Estimator. This is only a prediction of what your benefits might be as there could be other factors that affect your eligibility. Click HERE to link to the estimator.

How to Apply for Basic Food (Food Stamps):

1) Complete an application
In person at the Opportunity Council (1111 Cornwall) Monday through Friday 8am-4pm
• Over the phone with the Opportunity Council at 360-734-5121 ext. 246
• In person at DSHS (4101 Meridian St.) Monday through Friday 8am-2pm

2) Complete an interview (walk-in, no appointment necessary)
• At Opportunity Council DSHS out-station (1111 Cornwall, Tues-Wed 8am-3:30pm & Thurs 8am-12pm)
• At DSHS Main Office (4101 Meridian St., Mon-Fri 8am-2pm)
• Over the phone with DSHS at 1-877-501-2233
• At Lummi DSHS out-station (Medical clinic at 2592 Kwina Rd, Mon, Wed, and Fri 8am-3:30pm, closed for lunch)
• At Nooksack DSHS out-station (Nooksack Tribe Family Services at 5061 Deming Rd, Wed and Fri 8:30am-4pm, closed for lunch)

3) Provide all documentation
• Identification: Driver’s license, State ID, Birth Certificate, Passport, School records, or Alien registration card.
• Social Security # for all members of household (for information about your SS# or a free replacement card, contact Social Security Administration at 710 Alabama St., 360-738-3952)
• Proof of income: Pay stubs for previous 3 months/ Award letters, written or verbal statement from employer, Contact information for employer
• Proof of Living Situation: If you share your residence with anyone that you are not applying for, provide a statement on how shelter costs are shared and if you do or do not buy food together.

4) Receive EBT Card (Electronic Benefits Transfer)
• Receive card in-person at DSHS or have it mailed to you. Every month food benefits will be added to your EBT card and can be used to purchase food at most grocery stores.
• Benefits are available at 10am the day after approval.
• Double your EBT benefits by purchasing fresh produce at participating Fresh Bucks locations.

All of the above information is also available on our Basic Food Flyer 

How do I use my SNAP benefits and where can I use them?

Your EBT card works just like a debit card – you create a 4 digit pin that only you know and you swipe your card at the register. If you have non-food items in your cart, you use your EBT card first for the food items and then you pay for the rest of your purchase.

Most grocery and convenience stores accept EBT cards as well as many Farmers Markets. Just look for the EBT logo near the entrance or cash register.

SNAP benefits cannot be: Exchanged for cash or used by and for people who are not in your household.

SNAP benefits can be used to buy:
Breads and cereal
Fruits and vegetableCheese, milk and other dairy products
Meats, fish, poultry and eggs
Most other food items that are not “ready to eat” hot foods
Seeds and plants that produce food for your household

SNAP benefits cannot be used to buy:
Food in restaurants
Prepared or Ready to Eat Hot Foods
Food that is meant to be eaten in the store
Soaps, paper products
Household supplies
Vitamins or medicines
Beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes or tobacco

For additional FAQs and Answers, visit: DSHS Basic Food FAQs

Basic Food Elderly Interview Waiver (from http://foodhelp.wa.gov/index.htm)

Bag of FoodStarting with August 2013 applications and eligibility reviews, many elderly households without earnings will not need an interview for Basic Food benefits.  Washington was granted a demonstration project to test how waiving the interview requirement for Basic Food could improve benefit  access to seniors age 60+.

Households won’t need to complete an interview for food benefits when:

  • All members of the household are elderly (60+).
  • No household members have earned income.
  • A paper or electronic application or eligibility review has been completed.
  • All necessary verification has been provided or the verification, such as Social Security payments, are available through interfaces available to the department.

What other benefits may I be eligible for?

• Head Start: This preschool program serves Whatcom County children 3-5 years from income eligible families.  Services include health assessments, nutrition education, mental health services, social service referrals, home visits, and family support services.
• Early Head Start: This program serves pregnant women and children ages birth to 3 and their families.  Services include prenatal education, health and nutrition services, family development support, and home visits focusing on child development and quality early education.
• Energy Assistance: helps pay home energy costs for eligible households.
-Free and reduced school meals program: School-aged children in your household are automatically enrolled in the free and reduced school meals program.  Many families receiving Basic Food get the free meals and may not qualify if they applied directly through the school.
• Fresh Bucks: at participating locations matches your EBT benefits up to $10 per location per day for purchase of additional fruits and veggies.
• Women Infants and Children (WIC): If you have an infant or toddler in your household, you can use your Basic Food award letter as verification
• Free Assurance wireless phone
• Basic Food Employment & Training (BFET): provides training and education with a goal of assisting Basic Food clients to attaining a living wage career.

Contact Opportunity Council’s Community Resource Center for more information on these programs and other resources.
Drop-in hours Mon-Fri 8am-4pm at 1111 Cornwall Ave, Bellingham

After you apply for Basic Food, what are your next steps? Click Here for more information!