As the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) grows in enrollment numbers, Republican candidates are blaming Obama for the increase in food stamp demand in the past years. This latest debate has gotten many Americans, currently on SNAP, asking politicians to “spend some time in their shoes.”

We can only hope that you are fortunate enough to never need SNAP, but for 46 million Americans, food stamps are a necessity and reality. So, are you up for the challenge of seeing what it would be like if you needed food stamps?

According to Stacy Dean, the vice president for food assistance policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, about three-fourths of SNAP participants have children in their households, and over one-fourth have seniors or people with special needs in their households.

When there is more than one individual in the picture, it can become difficult to keep a balanced budget and live off the limited funds provided by the government.

To really know what it’s like to be on food stamps you have to look into the numbers.

The charts below explain who is eligible and can be found on the United States Department of Agriculture site, along with a pre-screening tool. One of the first things reviewed is your household income:

Family SizeMonthly Gross IncomeAnnual Gross Income
1$ 1,180$ 14,160
2$ 1,594$ 19,128
3$ 2,008$ 24,096
4$ 2,422$ 29,064
Additional People$ 414 +$ 4,968 +

As you can see, it has to be quite a desperate situation to even qualify for food stamps. The latest census figures concerning American housing show that an average American pays around $1,024 a month in housing costs in 2009. This figure was calculated by taking the average Monthly Housing Costs between the two largest categories of total occupied units.

Let’s say you were making $14,160 a year, nearly 90% ($12,288) of your paycheck would go towards rent alone. The government understands the volatile jobs market and unstable economy has put a great financial strain on many Americans and this is why there are options like SNAP. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program offers anywhere from $200 to $1,202 depending on the size of the household.

Family SizeMonthly Gross IncomeAnnual Gross IncomePeople in HouseholdMaximum Monthly Allotment
1$ 1,180$ 14,1601$200
2$ 1,594$ 19,1282$367
3$ 2,008$ 24,0963$526
4$ 2,422$ 29,0644$668
Additional People$ 414 +$ 4,968 +5$793
Additional People$150

Could You Live Off This Much?

To get a more accurate count for how much you’d be eligible for with your income, you have to take the net household income and multiply it by 30 percent and round up. Next you must subtract this figure from the maximum allotment for your household, and you end up with your monthly SNAP allotment. For example:

If you earn $1,074 and multiply it by 0.3, you’ll get $322.20 ($323). If you have four in your household, you must subtract $323 from $668 and you’ll end up with $345 in SNAP allotment for the month.

Each household has different dining methods. Since I am a single earner, I often go out to eat and rarely grocery shop. But if I were to lose my job, and need to go on SNAP, clearly I would not be eating at restaurants. On average, I spend between $60-$75 per week at the grocery store, this means I would have to cut out a few food items and become more of a bargain shopper if I were to need food stamps, considering the highest amount given out per month for individuals is $200.

Although I believe I could easily make the life changes needed to be able to make the SNAP benefits work for my diet, no one wants to have to compromise when it comes to getting the nutrition needed. If you have had any experiences with actually going on food stamps we would love to hear your story! Share with us below:

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