Program benefits are targeted to those most in need. To receive benefits, households must qualify based on their income, expenses, and assets. Households with lower income receive higher benefits up to a specified maximum. The maximum depends on household size and the cost the Thrifty Food Plan, a low-cost nutritious diet maintained and updated by USDA's Center for Nutrition and Policy Promotion. Most adults are required to work or take part in an employment and training program. Undocumented immigrants and some legal immigrants who have been in the US for less than 5 years are ineligible for program benefits.

At the Federal level, the program is administered by USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). Federal regulations define eligibility requirements, benefit levels, and administrative rules which, with a few exceptions, are nationally uniform. States, through local welfare offices, are responsible for day-to-day operations of the program and determine eligibility, calculate benefits, and issue benefits to participants according to Federal rules.

Additional information on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is available on the FNS website: