Expanding Your Food Budget

— Written By

There are several programs that help people access food, but the largest federal program is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly Food Stamps). In North Carolina, the program is called Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) and operates through the Department of Health and Human Services.

Many households depend on the monthly food supplement to help expand their grocery budget and purchase healthier foods. In Lee County 14.6% of the county population is food insecure. North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County offers a program called More In My Basket, which provides education about the FNS program. Through More In My Basket, participants learn if they are likely eligible for FNS, how FNS can expand their food budget, and receive individualized assistance with completing an application.

Households with seniors and/or individuals with disabilities often have higher than average healthcare costs and sometimes face the difficult choice of buying food or medicine—a situation that places these households at greater risk of food insecurity. Seniors (age 60 and older) and individuals with disabilities can claim medical expenses when applying for SNAP.

Unreimbursed, out-of-pocket medical expenses over $35 per month can be claimed, and there is no cap on the amount of medical expenses that can be claimed. Claiming these expenses can potentially increase the amount of SNAP benefits a household receives each month.

Often people are not aware they can claim medical expenses. In 2012, only 13% of North Carolina SNAP households with a senior or a person with a disability claimed medical expenses.

Examples of medical expenses that can be claimed

  • Prescription and over-the-counter medications
  • Insurance premiums, Medicare premiums, Medicaid cost-sharing expenses
  • Dentures, hearing aids, prescription eyeglasses, prosthetics
  • Transportation and lodging costs to obtain medical treatment and services
  • Service animal expenses, including food and veterinarian bills
  • Hospitalization, outpatient care, dental care, nursing care, psychotherapy

The above list is not an exhaustive list of eligible medical expenses. Through More In My Basket, participants learn if they are likely eligible for FNS, how FNS can expand their food budget, and receive individualized assistance with completing an application including claiming medical deductions.

Contact North Carolina Cooperative Extension’s Lee County Center to learn about upcoming More In My Basket sessions or to schedule a session. Alyssa Anderson can be reached at (919) 775-5624 or Alyssa_Anderson@ncsu.edu.

If you would like to find out if you may be eligible for FNS, contact the More In My Basket Toll-Free Information Line at 1-855-240-1451.