Pennsylvania Department of Human Services

Many family support services in Pennsylvania are overseen by the Department of Human Services (DHS). One family assistance program it is responsible for is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which is often called food stamps. The DHS oversees the income limit for food stamps as well as other eligibility factors for enrollment in the program. The DHS also handles the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, which helps needy families get to a place of financial independence. As with SNAP, the DHS is responsible for checking if the TANF requirements are met by applying households when determining their eligibility status. While the DHS does not manage the school lunch and breakfast programs in Pennsylvania, these assistance services are often connected and families eligible for SNAP or TANF may also qualify for free or reduced-cost meals for their children. On this page, you will read a brief overview of all three assistance programs. For comprehensive information about these programs including the requirements to receive benefits and applying successfully, download our in-depth guide here.

The Pennsylvania Food Assistance Program

The most common way to apply for food assistance in Pennsylvania is to seek benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. To receive the program's food stamps Pennsylvania income eligibility must be met by applying households. SNAP eligibility depends on several factors, the most important of which are income and citizenship. Unless your household members collectively make less than the income limit for food stamps for your household size, you cannot receive SNAP benefits. The same is also true if your household members are not U.S. citizens or eligible noncitizens.

Eligible households that sign up for food stamps will receive a certain amount of benefits that may be used to purchase food for home preparation and consumption. These food stamps benefits may be used at any participating grocery stores, convenience stores and supermarkets. A county assistance office (CAO) takes your application and determines whether you meet the eligibility requirements for the SNAP program. If a household meets the food stamp qualifications, then the CAO posts a certain amount of benefits (based on the size of the household) to an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) account. The household member is given an EBT card, which is used at participating stores to purchase approved food or food-related items.

Food stamps benefits can be renewed once they are set to expire. Food stamps renewal is also handled by the CAO. Households should know the certification period of their benefits, which describes the amount of time they may use their SNAP benefits.

There are other types of food assistance programs beyond SNAP benefits. For example, the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) in Pennsylvania is available to eligible families and households who are in need of nutritious food. There is no cost to join this program. Read More

The Pennsylvania Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program

The Pennsylvania Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program is also run by the Department of Human Services. The “family assistance program” and “cash assistance” are other names for TANF. The family assistance plan is primarily intended to help pregnant women, dependent children and their parents or live-in relatives. “What is TANF assistance intended to help with?” you might ask. The program's family support services offer beneficiaries an amount of cash for basic needs while they seek to become financially independent through work. This is why “cash assistance” is a straightforward and appropriate name for the program.

TANF requirements for eligibility include meeting residency, documentary, job-seeking and resource qualifications. You will also not be eligible for TANF benefits indefinitely. As for the amount time you may participate in the family assistance program, there is a maximum limit to collect TANF benefits. However, there are extensions for which Pennsylvania residents can apply. State residents who are also former service members can take advantage of special assistance programs for veterans. Veteran Disability Compensation is another family assistance program that provides cash and aid for former service members and their families. Read More

The School Lunch and Breakfast Programs in Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania school lunch and breakfast programs are run by the state's Department of Education. The federal government funds the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) to assist students in public and certain private schools in getting nutritious lunches. Under the program, young students are able to eat healthy meals for a low cost or no cost at all. The School Breakfast Program (SBP) in Pennsylvania is also intended to help students eat well for little to no cost. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides funding for SBP and state education agencies then oversee local school food authorities that provide breakfasts in the schools. There is also an afterschool snack program (ASP) in Pennsylvania in which students may be eligible to participate. ASP eligibility requirements are the same as those of the school lunch program.

School lunch and breakfast program eligibility are determined by a few different factors. For example, students are only eligible for school lunches and breakfasts if they are residents of Pennsylvania and if their households have an annual income that is less than the established limits. Certain residents who are eligible for other state assistance programs will automatically be eligible for school lunches as well. Download our comprehensive guide for details on receiving food assistance from multiple programs in Pennsylvania.

The schools provide school lunch and breakfast programs applications around the beginning of each school year. To apply for food assistance in school, families should fill out these applications and send them back to the school from where they were issued. However, they are not required to fill out a school meal application at the beginning of the year. The application can be completed and submitted at any time. Read More