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You are here: Home > Benefit Services > Food Assistance Program (FAP)

Food Assistance Program (FAP)


What is the Food Assistance Program?

The Food Assistance Program helps you to buy food for your family. It is designed to raise nutritional levels and assist in the well-being of individuals in low income households. You will receive an Ohio Direction Card or cash payment, which can be used at over 900 stores in Cuyahoga County if eligible. The Food Assistance Benefit amount depends on the assistance group size in comparison to the monthly household income. Assistance groups are people who live together and fix and eat their meals together. An assistance group can be one person or one family or a group of people who are not of the same family.

Poverty and Food Insecurity in Cuyahoga County

According to the 2012 U.S. Census Bureau, Feeding America 2014 Map the Meal Program and the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services April 2014 Report:

  • More than one in six (18.7%) Cuyahoga County residents were food insecure, totaling more than 238,000 people.
  • More than one in five (22.4%) Cuyahoga County children were food insecure, totaling more than 64,000 children.
  • Cuyahoga County had the largest number of food insecure residents and children than any county within the state of Ohio. 262,000 Cuyahoga County residents received food assistance benefits in early 2014.
Food Assistance Non Discrimination Statement

Cuyahoga Job and Family Services provide food assistance benefits to the residents of Cuyahoga County for the following reasons:
  • To alleviate hunger and malnutrition by increasing food purchasing power for all eligible households.
  • To promote the general welfare and to safeguard the health and well-being of the county’s population by raising the levels of nutrition among low-income households.
  • To promote the counties agriculture abundance and strengthen the local economy, as well as result in more orderly marketing and distribution of foods.
Cleveland Food Bank August 2014

Farmer’s Market

Food assistance customers in Cuyahoga County may utilize their local farmers’ markets in their areas, who accept the Ohio Direction Card.

When visiting the local farmers’ market to purchase fresh vegetables including beans, cabbage, cucumbers, garlic, greens, herbs and a host of other vegetables, fruits, and cheese customers should look for signs that say the market accepts Food Assistance, Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), Electronic Benefit Transfer Card (EBT) also known as the Ohio Direction Card.

Each market is different. Take your Ohio Direction Card to the market's EBT booth to "purchase" either, tokens or receipts to use throughout the market. Make sure to review the market’s policy on returns at the time of purchase. Always keep the receipt.

To purchase fresh food from a farmer, tokens or receipts received from the EBT booth and use them to purchase fruits and vegetables. If there are any leftover tokens or receipts, you may use them at the next visit, or return to the EBT booth for refunds to be placed on the Ohio Direction Card.

EBT Incentive at the Farmer’s Market

Support from the Gund Foundation gives Ohio Direction Card- EBTcustomers $5 in tokens for $5 minimum spent per visit to the Coit Rd Farmers’ Market. This offer is also available on market days at the Downtown Farmers' Market, Kamm's Corners Farmers Market and Tremont Farmers' Market. Customers who withdraw more than $5 receive an additional $5 in tokens to be spent at that market the same day or at a later date. To buy food from a single vendor farm stand, use the Ohio Direction Card just like in a store.

To find additional information on the incentive program please visit the Cleveland - Cuyahoga County Food Policy Coalition website.

Additional Resources for Local Farmers, Farmers' Markets and Customers

To locate stores, markets and other places that accept the Ohio Direction Card, click here.

Interested in learning more about nutrition, food safety and thrifty food shopping? Many counties in Ohio offer free classes through The Ohio State University Extension. For more information, check out the Ohio Family Nutrition Program Fact Sheet.

Who is Eligible?

Eligibility is based on the financial situation of all members in a household. Everyone who lives together and purchases and prepares food together is considered a member of the same assistance group. In general, CJFS will review expenses, assets and income to determine what if any benefits you may be eligible.

Eligibility is based on information such as family size, assets (checking and savings accounts, stocks and bonds, etc) income, expenses and resources. Income may not exceed 130% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL).

Assistance groups may have up to $2,000 in liquid assets. No one receives Food Assistance Benefits automatically. Every household interested in participating in this program must apply and meet federal requirements.
See the chart below to determine if you might qualify for Food Assistance based on your household size and income.
Assistance Group 
Size

Monthly Household
Income at 130% FPL
 
Food Assistance
 Allotment
 
1
$1,265 
$194 
 2
$1,705 
$357
 3
$2,144
$511
 4
$2,584
$649
 5
$3,024
$771
 6
$3,464
$925
Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, Program Policy Services Section, Revised 11 /8/14
(Changes through 1/1/15)


Applying for Benefits


Cuyahoga Job and Family Services encourage our customers to utilize the online web portal for the fastest service when applying for benefits. Cuyahoga Job and Family Services have a No "Wrong Door" Policy for customers when applying for benefits. A customer may apply for benefits in person, by mail, by phone or online.
Applying for food, cash and medical assistance through Cuyahoga County is a multi-step process. Please read the information carefully to ensure your application is processed as quickly as possible.

Please note it may take up to 30 days to complete your application.

STEP 1: SUBMIT YOUR APPLICATION
You can submit your application in the following ways:
  1. Online through the State of Ohio, Ohio Benefits web portal. www.Benefits.Ohio.Gov
  2. In Person at any of our Neighborhood Family Service Center. Identity for the applicant and/or authorized representative is the only required verification when applying in person.
    • Virgil E. Brown
    • Quincy Place
    • Old Brooklyn
    • Southgate
    • Westshore
  3. Mail a signed application to any of the above mentioned service centers

STEP 2: GATHER VERIFICATION DOCUMENTS

The assistance group has primary responsibility for providing verification to support its statements on the application and resolve any questionable information. The county agency shall allow assistance groups at least ten days to provide required verification. Following are some of the eligibility factors that are subject to verification requirements. Some examples of verification requirements include the following: identity, gross nonexempt income, rent/mortgage payment, utility expenses, residency, etc.

STEP 3: THE INTERVIEW

Once you have submitted an application, you will receive a letter in the mail with an appointment date and time for you to complete a face-to-face or telephone interview with a caseworker at your nearest Neighborhood Family Service Centers.

STEP 4: RETURN ANY ADDITIONAL VERIFICATION DOCUMENTS
 

At the end of the face –to-face or telephone interview, caseworker will provide you with a checklist of any additional verification documents needed to complete your case. If by phone your caseworker will identify the needed documents verbally and additionally mail out the checklist of needed documents to your identified place of residence.

Return those verification documents to us with your name and case number or social security number on all documents at any of our Neighborhood Family Service Centers in person or scan them into the self-scanning kiosk located at the NFSC sites.

Expedited Food Assistance

Expedited service means that assistance groups are determined eligible for benefits within twenty-four (24) hours or seven (7) days because of the assistance group’s circumstances. Expedited food assistance is available to households unable to meet their food needs. An applicant in need of expedited for emergency food assistance should complete the entire food assistance application and submit the application at one of the NFSC’s listed above. Once the applicant applies, if found eligible, benefits will be issued within seven calendar days.

Expedited Food Assistance is available to the following types of households:
  • The assistance group has less than $150 in gross monthly income and $100 or less in liquid resources.
  • The assistance group’s combined monthly gross income and liquid resources are less than the assistance groups combined shelter costs and the appropriate utility allowance, if applicable.

Ohio Direction Card


What Is The Ohio Direction Card?

Once families have been approved for food assistance, the Ohio Direction Card- EBT which is a plastic card that looks like a credit or debit card is issued and sent to the individual or family’s address. It can be used at most grocery stores across Cuyahoga County. You can use your Ohio Direction Card to buy groceries at stores taking part in the Ohio Direction Card Program. When users make eligible grocer purchases, they simply swipe the card through a reader at the register; the amount is deducted from the total monthly benefit amount. Remember that "eligible purchases" means food or food products but excludes alcohol, tobacco and food prepared to eat immediately such as food at restaurants.

Cash Out is a different method of issuing Food Assistance benefits; with Cash Out, benefits are paid directly to you in a check. All members of the Food Assistance group must be age 65 or older or receive SSI in order to have the option.

To find stores, markets and other places that accept the Ohio Direction Card- EBT, click here to locate retailers.

How Do I Receive My Food Assistance Benefits With The Ohio Direction Card?

The Direction Card contains a computer chip. This chip keeps track of your Food Assistance Benefits. Each month you are eligible for Food Assistance Benefits, your benefits will be electronically added to your Ohio Direction Card- EBT account every month. You may use your card by placing it in the card terminal at the checkout stand. You’ll enter a five number secret code. As your monthly benefits are added to your Direction Card, the balance on your card will go up. As you use your benefits, the Direction Card balance goes down.

Changes

In order to improve the variety of food available evenly through out the month and not just for the increased demand over the first ten days, The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) has transitioned into a new 20 day issuance schedule.

In order to improve the variety of food available evenly through out the month and not just for the increased demand over the first ten days, The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) has transitioned into a new 20 day issuance schedule.

All assistance groups will not be transitioned into the new 20 day issuance schedule.

As of February 2014 a 20 day assuance schedule has been implemented for the following assistance groups:
  1. New Assistance Groups
  2. Assistance groups that experience at least a one day break in food assistance eligibility due to a failure to take a required action

If a customer falls into one of the three categories mentioned above he or she will be assigned to the new 20 day issuance schedule according to the last digit of his or hers case number. For example, if the case number of a customer is 256450, that customer will be issued their food benefit on the 2nd day of each month. 

Please see the chart below for further clarification concerning the schedule.
 

Twenty Day (20) Issuance Schedule

 Last Digit of Case

 Issuance Date

 0  2nd
 1  4th
 2  6th
 3  8th
 4  10th
 5  12th 
 6  14th
 7  16th
 8  18th
 9  20th

Department of Job and Family Services, Program Policy Services Section, Revised 4/20/14