A woman and her infant shop for fruit at a grocery store.
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SNAP is the first line of defense against food insecurity in the United States

Tompkins County SNAP Gap

What is SNAP?

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the largest anti-hunger program in the United States. Participating households receive benefits loaded on a card that works like a debit card, which they can redeem to buy whatever groceries they choose at 75+ food retailers across Tompkins County. Decades of research on SNAP has shown it is effective in boosting food security and mental and physical health outcomes for individuals and families. 

What is the SNAP Gap?

The SNAP Gap is the gap between the number of all the people who are eligible for SNAP and the ones who actually receive SNAP dollars. Based on a Census Eligibility and Access Tool, only 55.5% of the Tompkins County residents who are likely eligible for SNAP are receiving benefits. Most importantly, this means many of us struggle to find the food we need to nourish and fuel our families every day. It also means our whole community misses the ripple effects of SNAP benefits which include bringing federal dollars to our local economy, creating jobs, supporting farmers, and lowering health care costs.

So what can we do?

First, we can make sure that everyone knows about SNAP and has the opportunity to find out more details about the program, whether they might be eligible, and how it can support their family and community. We created some materials (available in the sidebar) to take the first steps to make this information more readily available, and we hope you’ll help us get the word out.

If you want to find out if you may be eligible for SNAP or you want help completing an application, reach out to Catholic Charities here. You can also visit mybenefits.ny.gov to get more information or start an application.

SNAP updates during COVID-19: 

Since March 2020, there have been many SNAP policy changes that impact who is eligible to receive benefits and the amount of benefits each household receives.  

Here are a couple recent updates:

  • Since 2020, every household has been receiving the maximum benefit amount through Emergency Allotments. Based on federal policy changes, the last month of these extra payments will be February 2023. For more information about this policy change, see this FAQ from NY's Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.
  • Students enrolled at least half time in higher education may qualify if they are eligible for Federal Work-Study (whether or not they are participating), or if their FAFSA expected family contribution (EFC) is $0. Students will still have to meet other income and eligibility requirements, but this expansion makes many more students eligible. These expansions will likely continue to be in place until the federal pandemic state of emergency expires.

For more details and a complete list of COVID-19 related SNAP updates, visit Hunger Solutions NY's COVID-19 page.


Grace Parker Zielinski
Community Health Coordinator
(607) 272-2292

Last updated February 3, 2023