Food Stamps

Understanding Food Stamps

Anyone can apply for food stamps (commonly known as SNAP or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). To get food stamps, you and the other people in your household must meet certain conditions: Everyone who is applying in your household must have or apply for a Social Security number and be either a U.S. citizen, U.S. national or have status as a qualified alien.

An Overview of SNAP Food Stamps

Across the nation, food stamps benefits packages are available to qualifying low-income families and individuals. This program is available in every state, and it is designed to help fight hunger on a national scale. While colloquially referred to as food stamps or food assistance, the initiative’s official name is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Even though SNAP food benefits are offered across the country, individual states manage their own versions of the program. These local agencies work in conjunction with the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to create high-quality programs for beneficiaries.

What can I buy with SNAP food stamps?

The FNS and local agencies award SNAP food stamps to families who are unable to afford the costs associated with feeding their households. Most major grocery stores throughout the country accept program benefits, and many independent stores do, too. In general, qualified recipients may use their SNAP food benefits to purchase the following items at participating venues:

  • Dietary staples – Program enrollees may use their food stamps to purchase starchy staples, such as rice, pasta, cereal and bread.
  • Fresh fruit and vegetables – SNAP beneficiaries can use their funds to buy fresh produce at the store.
  • Animal products – Food stamps recipients are also able to use program monies to buy various cuts of meat, poultry, seafood, milk and cheese.

On the other hand, food assistance recipients must remember there are specific products they may not purchase with SNAP. Examples of these items include:

  • Alcohol or tobacco – This means candidates cannot use their SNAP to buy wine, spirits, beer or cigarettes.
  • Pet food or animal feed – While these products are technically for consumption, people cannot eat them. As a result, SNAP food stamps do not cover their costs.
  • Household items – SNAP funds only cover grocery costs. As a result, candidates may not use program dollars to buy paper towels, toilet paper, soap or any other household goods they cannot eat.
  • Premade meals – Food stamps program enrollees may not use their awarded amounts to purchase hot or ready-made meals. This is true even if the candidates buy the food in a grocery store.

How do I use SNAP food stamps benefits?

States will give an EBT card to applicants who are deemed eligible to enroll in their local food stamps programs. An EBT card, which is shorthand for the Electronic Benefits Transfer card, works just like a standard debit or credit card. Candidates may use these at most locations that accept traditional cards. State SNAP departments will mail food stamps recipients these cards once they are admitted into the program. Furthermore, the local agencies will automatically fill enrollees’ cards with program benefits during their allotted times. As a result, beneficiaries may access their funds as soon as they become available.

These EBT cards also make it easier for recipients to check their SNAP food benefits totals in between each purchase. Enrollees may use their receipts of purchase to keep track of their remaining balances, which are printed on the bottom of the papers. On the other hand, beneficiaries can monitor their SNAP benefits remaining totals online.