Food Assistance for Asylum Seekers

Last updated on December 7, 2023

There are different programs across the United States that help people get food when they cannot afford to buy it. Some are government programs, and some are not. The support you can receive is different depending on your immigration status and where you live. Getting food assistance should not affect your asylum case.

General food assistance

  • In many locations across the United States, you can find help getting food through programs such as nonprofit organizations, community groups, and religious institutions. These programs are sometimes called food banks, food pantries, or soup kitchens and are generally not managed by the government.
  • Visit this page or this page to search for food assistance near you!
  • Can asylum seekers use these services? Probably! In general, food pantries and similar services are available to anyone in need. Each place is different and you should be able to call or check online to learn about the specific requirements.

Help for mothers, infants, and children

  • The U.S. government has a national program called the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (“WIC”). This program helps pregnant women, breastfeeding women, babies, and children under age 5 access food.
  • Many public schools also offer free or low-cost meals to children in school.
  • Can asylum seekers apply for WIC? Yes! You can apply for WIC regardless of your immigration status. Visit this government website to learn whether you might be eligible for WIC.
  • Can asylum seekers apply for free or low cost school meals? Yes! You can apply for free or low-cost meals for your children in public school regardless of your family’s immigration status.

Food stamps

  • The U.S. government has a national program called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”), which is also known as “EBT,” or “food stamps.” This program helps people buy food if they cannot afford it. Some U.S. states also have similar programs managed by the state.
  • Can asylum seekers apply for national SNAP? Unfortunately, asylum seekers are not eligible for food stamps through the national SNAP program, unless they also have a different immigration status. You can learn more about the specific rules on this government website. However, if you have U.S. citizen children, you may be able to receive benefits on their behalf.
  • Can asylum seekers apply for state programs similar to SNAP? Unfortunately, most states also do not allow asylum seekers to apply for food stamps, unless they also have a different immigration status. However, as of 2023, some asylum seekers who live in the states of Illinois or Washington can apply for food stamps through their state programs. Click on these links to learn more: Illinois food stamps and Washington food stamps.

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