Can I get benefits separately from other people I live with?

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 DTA questions the proofs I sent them?. 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.

Example 1: Jane and Steve are roommates who share an apartment. Both have jobs, Jane works part-time. They occasionally share  a meal together, but they buy, prepare and consume the majority of their food (more than half their weekly food) 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.

Example 2: 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. She purchases and prepares most of her own food for herself and her child even though she uses her sister’s kitchen. Sally and her child can be a separate SNAP household. 

Advocacy Reminders:

  • 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 SNAP benefit is included in 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).
  • If you are disabled and someone purchases and prepares your food for you – other than your spouse or your parent if you are under age 22 – you may also qualify for separate SNAP benefits.  See What if I am elderly or disabled and live with other people but cannot buy and cook my own food?.

DTA Policy Guidance:

DTA Online Guide: SNAP > Eligibility Requirements > Household Composition

Additional Guidance
  • Battered woman who moves to a domestic violence shelter can be own SNAP household even if still part of the SNAP household she fled from. 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)
  • Roommate subletting not required to get a “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.” F.O. Memo 2005-50, Attachment B (Oct. 3, 2005).

Hide Additional Policy Guidance

Produced by Patricia Baker and Victoria Negus
Last Updated January 2016

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