About four years ago, I did some volunteer work at a local food pantry. My job was interviewing prospective users of the pantry which included an in-depth discussion of their budget and finances. This part of the interview process was to help families find additional resources and programs like WIC or heating oil assistance if they weren’t aware of them.

I remember one day having to look up the federal poverty rate and having an epiphany that I was below it. That’s right, I could have not only been using the food pantry I volunteered at but I could have also taken advantage of some of these programs I had been talking to people about. Hmph.


Fast-forward to now. I’m making double what I was living on back then at my day job (and this is not even including income I make with my business). While I am no longer a poor college student working part-time, I don’t exactly feel like I’m rolling in it.

I thought it would be interesting to look up some of the programs I used to refer people to and see who would qualify for them now. Today, I’ll tackle food and health programs and the following post I’ll talk housing.

Food Stamps
This is a little formulaic but there are some basic requirements, like being a US citizen and having less than $2000 in assets. (Note: Your house does not count as an asset, but your car may depending on how you use it.) Here is a handy little online calculator to see if you qualify. I personally have too much in savings to qualify.

For single people, annual income to qualify for Medicaid is roughly $8500, total resources being $13,800. Pregnant women and children, however, you make of this 200% above the federal poverty line. There are, of course, exceptions.

Dental/Medical Clinics
Clinics seem to vary state to state compared to other programs. When I called my local dental clinic, I could not get any assistance because an income of $22,000 a year is making “way too much money” to qualify.There is, however, a great directory of health clinics that are searchable online.

WIC is a USDA program where new mothers and their children (up to five years old) qualify for not only breast-feeding support and immunization services but also can purchase “nutritious” foods such as formula, milk, and cereal. Income guidelines are 185% above the federal poverty level, which means a household of one would make around $19,200 a year.

Free or reduced price meals at schools
School lunch programs offer discounts in the way of reduced price meals (185% above the federal poverty line or $19,200) and free meals (130% above the federal poverty line or $13,500).

Stay tuned for Part Two of this series, and if you want more possibilities:
See other programs from the Department of Health and Human Services…

Need marketing help?