Receiving Food From Others Will No Longer Reduce SSI Benefits. "The Social Security Administration no longer counts food items when determining in-kind support and maintenance (ISM), a decision that will potentially boost the SSI Payment Amounts for many recipients." The National Center for Disability, Equity, and Intersectionality. #ThinkEquitable #EverybodyEats. QR code that links to:

Social Security Administration Updates Rules for In-kind Support and Maintenance

By Emma Barbato, Esq., MS
Staff Attorney, Project HEAL (Health Education, Advocacy, and Law)
Kennedy Krieger Institute

In a recent update that simplifies access to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has introduced significant changes to the In-Kind Support and Maintenance (ISM) regulations. The change means the SSA no longer counts food items provided at no-cost by others when determining ISM, a decision that will potentially boost the SSI payment amounts for many recipients.

SSI is a program designed to help aged, blind, and disabled people, who have little or no income, by providing cash to meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter. Traditionally, the SSA would reduce the monthly SSI benefit amount by ISM, which includes food and shelter provided by someone else at no cost to the recipient. 

With the new rule, dubbed “Omitting Food from In-Kind Support and Maintenance Calculations,” receipt of food at no cost will no longer be counted as income by the SSA. This means that receiving food from family, friends, or charitable organizations will not decrease the SSI benefits a person is eligible for. The regulatory change is intended to help recipients achieve a better standard of living while removing some of the barriers to receiving full benefits.

The SSA’s adjustment is part of a broader initiative to update SSI regulations, aiming to make them more in tune with current social and economic needs. By simplifying these regulations, the SSA is working towards its mission of assisting individuals in accessing the crucial support they need without extra complications.

This rule revision represents a shift in how the SSA administers support, making it a substantial step forward in the fight against poverty among the nation’s most vulnerable populations.

For more details on this update, you can read directly from the SSA’s official blog post: (

Please find resources related to the SSI/SSDI here.
Please find an SSI child application guide here.


In-Kind Support and Maintenance (ISM) – This is monetary support, food, or shelter given to an SSI recipient that the Social Security Administration considers income. 

Emma Barbato is a staff attorney at Project HEAL. Emma received a bachelor’s degree in Linguistics from University of Maryland Baltimore County. She went on to receive her Master’s Degree in Special Education and spent five years teaching before earning a Juris Doctor at University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. While in law school, Emma served as a Project HEAL trainee and as an intern for Disability Rights of Maryland. She also worked as a student attorney at her school’s Medical Legal Partnership clinic. Following graduation Emma completed a clerkship in the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County.

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