Food (Food stamps, shopping lists, etc.)
Updated: Sep 4, 2021
Applying for SNAP (also known as food stamps)/ food assistance
Most government food assistance programs happen at the state level. This guide from USA.Gov answers the basics of the programs and can help you find your own state program. You can also look for a local Food Bank using these helpful maps provided by Feeding America and Ample Harvest.
If you’re able to stock up on food, here’s a guide of how to do that with cost in mind:
Supplies for staying in
Supplies for if you get sick
Note: Be mindful of any fraud or scams arising and targeting SNAP beneficiaries in your community. The USDA Scam Alerts reported on fraudulent activities occurring during COVID-19 and ways to get help.
CollegeSNAPproject.org verified October 21, 2020 This state-by-state guide gives college students up-to-date information on how to apply for and receive SNAP benefits in their state, as well as information on how to find advocacy organizations working on this issue in their state. This crowdsourced knowledge center lets students, administrators, and advocates contribute their firsthand information and use their voice to strengthen the nutrition safety net.
Fresh EBT verified July 7, 2020 This free app makes it easy and secure to check your food stamp balance, save money with coupons, and explore job posts or other money-making opportunities all on your phone. Available in English and Spanish.
Thrive Market Gives- Free Membership verified June 12, 2020 Get Organic & Healthy Groceries 25-50% OFF Delivered to You! Low-income families, veterans, teachers, and students can apply for a free membership, get exclusive Gives Member savings, and access to the Thrive Market Healthy Hacks video series.
Finding free/cheap cooking tools
If you have limited access to cooking equipment, try checking the "free" section of Craigslist or searching through the Freecycle Network— you can even make requests for specific items! Checking out your local goodwill or dollar stores is also a great way to find affordable cooking tools.
Individual and Families
Hunger hotline from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) for information on meal sites, food banks, and other services near you. Call 1-866-3-HUNGRY (1-866-348-6479) or 1-877-8-HAMBRE (1-877-842-6273) for Spanish. Hours are 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Eastern Time Monday through Friday.
Hunger hotline text option. Text 97779 with a question that contains a keyword such as “food” or “meals”. The automated response will include resources located near an address and/or zip code.
Food finder for free food assistance programs for children and families.
Meals on Wheels for individuals with diminished mobility who are generally aged 60 and older, although age requirements can vary. Find a provider online.
Tips for grocery shopping during the coronavirus pandemic.
Start simple food planning during the pandemic with MyPlate.
Using the updated nutrition facts.
Healthy eating tips.
Buying food that’ll last
There are currently no signs that food spreads the novel coronavirus, so following general food safety guidelines will be sufficient as you purchase the food during this public health crisis.
When you need to head to the store, make a list first of what you’ll need. Try to plan it out by meals to stretch your dollars. Just Say Yes to Fruits and Veggies offers a variety of easy and low-cost recipes to try at home and Budget Bytes is a great cooking resource for cooking on a budget (great anytime!).
What you stock up on depends on:
What cooking equipment you have access to (i.e. do you only have a microwave? Do you have a freezer?)
Your level of cooking ability
How many people you live with
Your preferences / dietary needs (you want to make sure you’ll eat it!)
Think about meals you can make that you’ll enjoy using foods listed below. Don’t forget to plan for multiple meals a day.
If stores near you are low on supplies, be sure to ask a staff member when they will restock so you can plan to visit. You can also call ahead to ask.
Foods that will last longer
Shelf-stable foods include food that will not expire for long periods of time and can be preserved outside of a fridge. You can read the USDA’s guide on Shelf-Stable Food Safety for more in-depth tips. Examples include:
Dried food (rice, beans, pasta, grains, meats, nuts, seeds)
Canned food (veggies, beans, soup, meat)
Dehydrated foods (stuffing, mashed potatoes, powder milk, ramen noodles)
Frozen foods (frozen veggies, meals, fruit, etc)
Vegan alternatives - Plant-based alternatives can last much longer in some cases. For example oat or nut milk vs cow milk, impossible meat vs regular meat
Eggs will last for a while in the fridge
Boxed and sealed foods (cereal, cookies, crackers, etc)
Also, think about seasonings that will make the food taste better when you’re sick of eating the same thing over and over. Things like:
Fresh herbs (if you have space to grow some!)
Dressings and sauces
Don’t forget extras to help you cook:
Foods that won’t last well:
Fresh bread or produce
Fresh meat (but you can freeze it!)
Buying food / medicine for if you get sick
Based on current projections, there’s a very real chance a lot of us may get sick. Even mild cases of the virus require at-home care. Being prepared for illness can help you stay out of the hospital and prevent spreading the illness farther.
If you need help getting your prescription medicine, that information is under the Healthcare section.
Don’t forget to buy these items in case you get sick:
Medicine for reducing fever - ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Nuprin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol and others). Dayquil and Nyquil contain these medicines. Generics work the same as brand names! (You may have this on hand already. Be sure to check expiration dates!)
Liquids with electrolytes (pro tip: look for Gatorade powder to avoid paying for tons of bottles)
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