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General Eligibility Rules

We are in the process of updating the SNAP Advocacy Guide, so some of the information is no longer current.  In the meantime, you can read or download a PDF of the 2023 guide from

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed March 2023

What is a SNAP household or assistance unit?

A SNAP household is an individual, or a group of individuals living together, who receive SNAP together. DTA also uses the term “assistance unit."

The SNAP rules look at whether people who live together “customarily purchase and prepare” food together and consider their income in calculating the household benefits. In some cases, people who don’t typically buy and prepare food together still need to be in the same household. 106 C.M.R.§361.200(link is external). See Can I get benefits separately from other people I live with? and Who cannot be a separate SNAP household? for the “household composition” rules about who must be included in your SNAP household.


In contrast, needs-based cash assistance programs such as TAFDC, EAEDC, and SSI, as well as MassHealth, consider who has a legal responsibility of persons who live together: spouses to spouses, parents to minor children. The SNAP rules are different. 

This is a fundamental concept of the SNAP program, but it can confuse low-income households and advocates because the household rules are different from other needs-based programs. 

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