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

Produced by Patricia Baker and Victoria Negus
Reviewed January 2018

If you live with other people – and you buy and prepare your own food separately 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. You are not required to have cooking facilities to qualify for SNAP. 106 C.M.R.§ 361.200.

On the application form, if you live with other individuals, you will be asked to answer the following question about the people you list on the application “Do you purchase and prepare food together?” You must answer this question truthfully, but the fact that you do not have money to buy food is not questionable. You may be getting food from food pantries, getting free meals from a church or soup kitchen, or borrowing money for food. DTA should ask for proof of the living situation only if the information you provide appears “questionable” to the DTA worker, but lack of money to buy food is not questionable. See What if DTA questions the proofs I sent them?.

Example 1: Jane and Steve are roommates who share an apartment. Both have jobs, but Jane only has part-time work. They occasionally share a meal together, but they buy, prepare and consume the majority of their food separately. Jane and Steve can be separate SNAP households.  Unless they are a legally married couple, 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 older sister. Sally pays half of the rent and has kitchen privileges. She purchases and prepares the majority of her own food for herself and her child. Sally and her child can be a separate SNAP household.  

Advocacy Reminders:

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).

Show DTA Policy Guidance

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