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What if I am elderly or disabled and live with other people but I cannot buy and cook my own food?

Produced by Patricia Baker and Victoria Negus
Reviewed January 2018

There are two options, even if you are unable to prepare your own meals:

Option 1: If your disability makes you unable to purchase and prepare your own food, you can get SNAP separately from the people you live with – even if they shop and cook food for you. This option as long as the majority of the food you consume is purchased with your income and prepared for you separate from the people you live with. This option does not apply if the person buying and cooking food for you is your legal spouse,  or your parent if you are under age 22.

There are many reasons why persons with disabilities may have meals prepared separately. You may have a special diet, eat meals at different times from others, or keep your income and living expenses separate from others. This should not prevent you from getting your own SNAP benefits.

Example 1: Tom is a 35-year-old disabled adult. He shares an apartment with a roommate, Joe. Because Tom is unable to buy and cook his own food due to his disability, Tom gives Joe money each month to buy his food and Joe prepares it. Sometimes they share a meal, but the majority of the food Tom eats consumes is purchased with his own money and prepared separately. Tom qualifies for his own SNAP household.

Option 2: If you are 60 or older and have a permanent disability, you may be able to get SNAP separately for yourself even though you share food bought and cooked with the people you live with. 106 C.M.R. § 361.200(B)(4).

To qualify for your own SNAP benefits, you must meet three criteria:

  • Be severely disabled,
  • Be age 60 or older, and
  • The gross income of the household you live with must be less than 165 % of the federal poverty level (FPL).

Example 2: Bertha is a 75-year-old disabled woman. She receives $1,000 per month in Social Security benefits. Bertha lives with her 40-year-old daughter Mary, and Mary’s two teenage children. Mary’s gross income is $1,200 per month. Mary purchases and prepares the meals for the entire household, including her mom Bertha. Since Bertha is both disabled and over age 59 years of age, Bertha can qualify for a separate SNAP benefit. That’s because her daughter Mary’s gross income is below 165% of the federal poverty level for a family of three. Mary also has the option to apply for SNAP as a separate SNAP household with her children. The two separate households will receive more in SNAP benefits than if they were in one SNAP household of four persons.

Note:  Households that are caring for frail elders or persons with disabilities and receive adult foster care payments can exclude (“opt out”) the foster adult. This excludes the foster care payments as income and can increase the SNAP benefits. 106 C.M.R. § 361.240 (F).  See What if I am caring for a foster child?.

Adult foster care is a special program through MassHealth which pays someone for in-home care of a low-income disabled adult or frail elder who might otherwise be institutionalized. See MLRI FAQ in Appendix C.

DTA Policy Guidance:

DTA Online Guide: SNAP > Eligibility Requirements > Household Composition

Additional Guidance
  • A person too disabled to purchase and prepare for him/herself and gets assistance with food preparation can still qualify for separate household status. Transitions FYI (Dec. 2007).

Show DTA Policy Guidance

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