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Your Rights Under the Food Stamp Program

Brenda Procter, M.S., State Specialist & Instructor, Personal Financial Planning, University of Missouri Extension


The Food Stamp Program is the first line of defense against hunger. It helps low-income families buy nutritious food with Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards. The Program provides support to households in need and to those who are moving from welfare to work. The Missouri Family Services Division takes applications for the Food Stamp Program.

These are your rights under the Food Stamp Program:

  • You always have the right to apply for food stamp benefits on the day that you contact any Family Services Division (FSD) office. You can apply by phone or in person.
  • If you apply by phone, FSD can send you a food stamp application the day you call. You can mail the application back to FSD, fax it to them, or bring it in person to the office of your choice.
  • When you apply for food stamps, you also can apply for other help, such as Medical Assistance, Temporary Assistance (cash benefits), or Child Care assistance. Or, you can apply for food stamp benefits only.
  • If you are denied other benefits, you may still be eligible for food stamp benefits, even if you filed a joint application for other programs.
  • The Food Stamp Program does not have time limits like Temporary Assistance does.
  • Getting food stamp benefits does not affect your eligibility for Temporary Assistance.
  • If you lose your Temporary Assistance benefits because you go to work, reach your time limit, or are sanctioned for some reason, you may still be eligible for food stamps.
  • AN FSD caseworker will have to interview you before your application can be processed. You can have an interview in person or over the phone.
  • If your food stamp benefits are ending, you will receive a notice in the mail and an application to renew them. Fill it out and mail it or fax it back, or take it to the FSD office in person.
  • It is important to tell the FSD caseworker about any expenses that you have, because they may make the difference in your eligibility to receive food stamp benefits.
  • If you have an emergency situation, you may be eligible to receive "expedited" benefits in 7 days. Otherwise, FSD must process your application within 30 days. Tell your caseworker if you have an emergency, and call FSD if your application is not processed within the time limit.
  • You have the right to see or get a copy of anything in your file and have it explained to you in a language or in terms that you can understand.
  • If you do not give a social security number for any member of your household, the remaining members will still be considered for benefits, without that person being included in the decision.
  • If you apply for someone who is not a citizen, you must give FSD the immigration status of that person. You may choose not to include the non-citizen, but it could affect the household's eligibility or lower the amount of benefits that everyone else in the household can get.
  • If you are denied benefits, or if you disagree with any decision about your benefits, you have the right to a fair hearing. You may bring a lawyer, friend, relative or anyone else to the hearing on your case.
  • Under Federal law, FSD may not discriminate against you on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, political beliefs or disability. To file a discrimination complaint, contact USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, Room 326-W, Whitten Building, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC, 20250-0410, or call 202-720-5964 (for both voice and TDD).

To get food stamps for everyone in your household, you have to give FSD a social security number for everyone. The number will be used to get information for each person from:

  • the Social Security Administration
  • the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
  • the Missouri Division of Workforce Development
  • the Missouri Department of Corrections
  • the Veterans Administration
  • the Division of Child Support Enforcement
  • Local law enforcement
  • Employers
  • Other states (to verify that you are not already receiving benefits from one of them)

The Food Stamp Program is there to help, so do not hesitate to apply or to question decisions if you feel any of your rights have been violated. For more information about the Food Stamp Program, see



Missouri Department of Social Services website, Family Support Division, Instructions for Making Your Food Stamp Application and Food Stamp Rights,

USDA Food and Nutrition Service website, Food Stamp Program,

USDA Food and Nutrition Service website, Food Stamp Program, Applicants and Recipients: Your Rights,





Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009






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