If you live with other people but you buy and prepare your own food separate from them most of the time, you may be able to get your own SNAP benefits. You are not required to keep your food separate from their food, use a different stove or refrigerator or even have access to cooking facilities. 106 C.M.R. § 361.200.
On the application form, when you list other persons you live with, be sure to check off yes or no if you share food with the people sharing your apartment or home. You should only have to provide proof of your situation if the information you provide looks questionable to your case manager. See What if I am having trouble getting all the proofs, or the proofs get to DTA late? The fact that you do not have money to buy food is not questionable if you are getting food from food pantries or borrowing money for food until you get benefits.
Jane and Steve are roommates who share an apartment. Both have jobs, Jane works part-time. They occasionally eat a meal together, but they buy, prepare and consume the majority of their food (more than 11 meals a week) separately. Jane and Steve can be separate SNAP households. Even if they share a bedroom—unless they are legally married—they can be separate SNAP households.
Sally is a single mother with one child. She is 25 years old and shares an apartment with her sister. Sally pays half of the rent and she purchases and prepares most of her own food for herself and her child. She uses her sister’s kitchen. Sally can be a separate SNAP household.
If you buy and prepare most of your food yourself, it is usually better to get your own SNAP benefits. The amount you get will be higher than if your allotment is part of another SNAP household. It also means that you cannot be cut off or denied if the other person does not comply with program rules. 106 C.M.R. § 361.200(A). See Who cannot be a separate SNAP household?
If you are too disabled to purchase and prepare your own food and someone other than a spouse or parent (if you are under 22) does those tasks for you, you can still get your own separate SNAP benefits. Special rules also apply to persons who are both elderly and disabled. See What if I am elderly or disabled and live with other people but I cannot buy and cook my own food?
Additional Policy Guidance on Purchase and Prepare Rule
- Battered woman who moves to DV shelter can be own SNAP household even if still part of SNAP grant of abuser. Transitions Hotline Q&A (May 2012).
- Applicant need not verify household composition (e.g., that the applicant purchases and prepares separately) unless situation is questionable. Transitions Hotline Q&A (May 2008).
- A person too disabled to purchase and prepare for him or herself and gets assistance with food preparation can still qualify for separate household status. Transitions FYI (December 2007).
- Roommate subletting need not get "shared housing verification form" filled out; roommates can be separate households without verification unless questionable. Transitions Hotline Q&A(July 2007).
- DTA clarifies the majority of meals concept in a Bay State CAP mailing to SSI recipients living with others but preparing most meals separately as follows: "most means 11 or more meals per week." Field Operations (F.O.) Memo 2005-50, Attachment B (Oct. 3, 2005).
Produced by Patricia Baker, Victoria Negus, Laura Gallant, Deborah Harris, Rochelle Hahn, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute Last updated January 2014