Learn About Food Stamp Benefits

Learn How To Get FOOD STAMPS & Receive Text Alerts


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The federal government provides low-income individuals with food assistance through benefits provided by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

These food assistance benefits are funded federally, but each state is granted the ability to manage the SNAP program for their residents.

The initial launch of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program was in the 1930s, but it did not become available throughout the country until later in the 1970s.

Food assistance programs like SNAP are designed to help low-income individuals and families afford food for their household. However, the assistance provided through SNAP, in the form of food stamps, are not intended to cover the entire cost of a household’s food budget.

Instead, the SNAP program is meant to be a supplement a family’s existing ability to provide their household with nutritious food products.

The goal of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is to prevent low-income families from developing diseases or disorders that are caused by malnourishment or poor diets. A major benefit of food stamps is that they can be used on almost any food product that provides nutritional substance to an individual.

However, there are some restrictions on what can be purchased with food stamp benefits. The simple enrollment process for SNAP benefits can be completed in a small amount of time.

After an application is submitted, most SNAP agencies will notify the applicant of their decision and update them on their enrollment status.

What items can you purchase with SNAP food stamps?

After being approved for food assistance through the SNAP program, participants will be issued an Electronic Benefit Transfers (EBT) card. SNAP beneficiaries will receive their funding on their EBT benefit cards.

EBT cards can be utilized to purchase groceries at retailers that are participating in the SNAP program. The amount of benefits that a family is given in food assistance will vary depending on income levels and a few other factors. SNAP benefits can be used to purchase a variety of items including:

  • Fruits and vegetables.
  • Breads and cereals.
  • Dairy products.
  • Meat and poultry.
  • Seafood and fish.
  • Seeds or plants that will be grown for food.
  • Junk food or luxury items such as:
    • Lobster and steak.
    • Candy and soda.
    • Snacks.
    • Live seafood.

Note: Many farmer’s markets also accept EBT benefits for their fresh produce and other food products.

What items can you NOT purchase with SNAP benefits?

While food stamps and EBT benefits can be used in a variety of ways, there are certain limitations instituted by the federal government.

For example, beneficiaries are not allowed to use SNAP food assistance to purchase items that can be hazardous to their health or any non-food items. A few examples of items that cannot be purchased using EBT benefits includes:

  • Cigarettes and other tobacco products.
  • Alcohol.
  • Food for pets.
  • Household items such as toiletries.
  • Cleaning supplies.
  • Vitamins and medicine.

Hot or prepared meals are nourishing food items, however they are not purchasable using SNAP benefits. Benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program are meant to be used for food that will be taken home to be prepared and eater at a later time.

Although medicines and vitamins can be good for an individual’s health, they do not count as food items and cannot be purchased with SNAP benefits.

How long does it take to receive food assistance benefits from SNAP?

Generally, SNAP benefits for applicants in each state will receive a notification stating that they have been enrolled within 30 days of applying.

For individuals and families with more urgent food needs, the enrollment process can be completed with one week. Otherwise, applicants will need to submit an application for food stamps and sit for an interview at a SNAP agency.

Note: Applicants who are denied enrollment have the option to appeal their denial. If they are able to provide adequate proof that they were wrongfully denied, the denial will be reversed.

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