Food Assistance Services  

The Food and Nutrition Assistance Program (FNS) is a federal program that provides a monthly allotment of food assistance benefits issued via Electronic Benefit Transfer cards (ATM cards). The FNS Program is an entitlement program, so all eligible individuals and households can receive assistance. Food Assistance benefits may be used to purchase most foods at participating stores.

Items that may not be purchased with food stamps include:

  • tobacco
  • pet food
  • paper products
  • soap products
  • alcoholic beverages.

Eligible households must be given the opportunity to receive Food Assistance benefits no later than thirty days from the date of application. Individuals with special circumstances must be given an opportunity to receive Food Assistance benefits no later than seven days from the date of application.

Allowed deductions from your income include:

  • child support payments
  • day care expenses
  • fuel and utility
  • fire insurance
  • medical bills
  • real property taxes
  • rent

Applicants must meet the following criteria:

Household Composition

Individuals residing together, but purchasing and preparing their meals separately, may participate in the FNS Program as a separate household. Some individuals, whether they purchase and prepare their meals separately, must participate in the FNS Program as one household.

Individuals who must participate in the FNS Program as one household are:

  • Individuals living together who purchase/prepare their food together or will do so upon receipt of food assistance
  • Spouses living together or individuals representing themselves as husband and wife to the community
  • Individuals under 22 living with a parent
  • Individuals under 18 under the parental control of an adult living in the home; or
  • Two unmarried adults living in the same home who are parents of a mutual child

Citizenship/Immigration Status

Each member of the Food Assistance household must be a U. S. Citizen or an immigrant admitted to the United States under a specific immigration status. Citizens and eligible immigrants must also meet all other FNS Program eligibility requirements to receive assistance.

Work Requirements

Some individuals are required to participate in FNS work programs, such as, Employment and Training and Work Fare. Some individuals have to meet special work requirements. These are able-bodied adults without dependent children. These individuals must be between the ages of 18 and 49. They may only receive Food Assistance benefits for three months out of a 36-month period. This requirement does not apply if the adult:

  • Is working 20 hours a week (or 80 hours a month), or is engaging in a variety of allowable work-related activities for the same amount of time (such as Employment and Training, JTPA, etc.), or
  • Is pregnant or disabled, or
  • lives in a home where a child under the age of 18 resides.

In addition, some adults in certain economically distressed counties are exempt from this requirement.


Households may have $2,000 in countable resources, such as a bank accounts and vehicles. Households may have $3,000 if at least one person is age 60 or older or disabled. Certain resources are not counted, such as a home and surrounding property, and the resources of people who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Work First.

Totally exclude the following licensed or unlicensed vehicles, regardless of use:

  • One motor vehicle per adult (age 18 or older) or emancipated FSU household member whether licensed or unlicensed and
  • Vehicles with equity value of less than or equal to $1500, whether licensed or unlicensed

Totally exclude the following licensed vehicles:

  • Vehicles used for long distance travel essential to the employment of a FSU member;
  • Vehicles used to transport a physically disabled FSU member;
  • Vehicles used to carry the FSU's main source of water or heating fuel for home use;
  • Income producing vehicles
  • Vehicles used as a home
  • Leased vehicles

For all other vehicles, count the equity value (fair market value minus the amount owed).


All households must meet an income test to receive benefits. Income limits vary by household size. See the NC Division of Social Work Services income guidelines for details.

To learn more about the Food Assistance Program, please visit the United States Department of Agriculture's web site.

Many women and children in FNS households are also eligible for food assistance through the Women, Infant and Children (WIC) program, administered by the Buncombe County Department of Health.

Application Procedures

  • Phone call
  • Apply in person
  • Apply by mail
  • Home visits

What to bring with you

  • Proof of identity
  • Social Security Card
  • Income Verification
  • Year make and model of all vehicles owned by any member of the household
  • Proof of ownership of land or buildings
  • Proof of household expenses