Food and Nutrition Services

…Or what you might know as food stamps

Everyone has heard of food stamps. But not many people know much about them, unless they receive them. For example, something as simple as the fact that it is called Food and Nutrition Services now. And even if you are currently benefitting from food stamps, you might not know all of the details!

FNS (Food and Nutritional Services) has a long history of providing individuals and families in need with the ability to buy wholesome food products. That means that there are certainly exclusions to what can be bought. Tobacco products, pet food, paper products, soap products and alcohol are not eligible to be purchased with FNS benefits. According to Emily Kraft. Food and Nutrition Services Coordinator with the Food Bank of Central and Eastern NC, “prepared foods cannot be purchased with FNS benefits, such as rotisserie chickens, cooked chicken wings, hot pizza or food and soup bars.  It would make sense for people to be able to buy those types of food with their benefits, but unfortunately, they are not allowed.  Many families think they can buy a hot meal with benefits and are surprised to learn, at the register, that they cannot do that.” In addition to the grocery store items not aforementioned, seeds to grow fruits and vegetables can be bought as well as infant formula. Items such as soft drinks, candy, and cookies are allowed and luxury items like steak and seafood are also eligible for purchase with the benefits. Each individual or household is allowed to decide what to purchase within these guidelines.

The FNS benefits are now on a debit card. This makes the assistance easier to use and decreases the possibility of fraud. It also reduces the amount of wasted benefits due to lost or damaged vouchers. The benefits from one month can roll over for up to 12 months, which allows people to plan for different events and times in their lives. For example, if they choose to plant a garden, they would have food during the warmer months and they would be able to save their FNS for the winter. Or if a family has a daughter and her birthday is in February, the parents may choose to spend less in January and buy her a cake in February.

It is necessary to have a social security number to apply for FNS, but some immigrants are eligible if they live in the United States for enough time (generally five years). And even if you personally are not applicable for FNS, someone in your household may be able to. For example, if you are an immigrant parent with a child who is a legal immigrant or citizen, you may apply for your child without having to discuss your status. Receiving FNS does not hurt your chance of applying for US citizenship.

In recent years, applying for FNS has become easier. You may apply if you are employed, unemployed, have a home, car and land, have a retirement plan and if you do not have an address. This opens up the opportunity for non-traditional demographics.

Did you know that FNS assistance is available through your local Food Bank?  Call or email Emily Kraft at or (910) 251-1465 to learn more about FNS or apply for benefits.

If you have any specific questions, you may call the Department of Social Services (DSS) at 1-866-719-0141.

If you are in need of food while you are waiting on your application to be processed, you may contact a local food bank.


Written by Kaylor Wells

Our vision is to be anywhere and everywhere hungry kids need us

NourishNC has three strategic programs specifically designed to provide nutritious food to hungry children in our community.

Click here to learn more about our Backpack Program

Backpack Program

The Backpack Program provides food insecure children, pre-K through 5th grade, with three nutritious meals a day, every weekend, and over every school break.

Click here to learn more about Market On Market program

Market On Market

The Market on Market (The MoM) is a full-service grocery store where food insecure children, pre-K through 12th grade, and their families can shop to choose the food that is best for them.

Click here to learn more about our Food Farmacy program

Food Farmacy

The Food Farmacy Program provides non-perishable and fresh food items through partner organizations such as schools, pediatrician offices, and other nonprofits.