Food stamps provide much needed assistance to low income families, and the percentage of those families is constantly rising according to statistics. As the debate over budget cuts and social welfare continues to rage in political circles, SNAP and other food supplement programs run by the government frequently fall under scrutiny. Recently in Florida, legislation was rejected in the House to further limit what food stamp recipients could purchase. The rules would have forbidden “junk food” like candy and soda. However, representatives stated that this was too far reaching for government to regulate, and really, it wasn’t the government’s place to state what items are necessary for a healthy diet—as this could be seen as a further stigma placed upon families that use food assistance. So, what does SNAP benefits cover? There are some legitimate things that are banned from being purchased with food stamps.
Basically, the government doesn’t want food stamp recipients to use food stamps at Olive Garden or to purchase pre-cooked items at the grocery store. In general, items that can be eaten in the store, whether considered “hot” or not, are not eligible to be bought with food stamps. This includes things like sandwiches or macaroni salad that you may get in the deli.
It may be arguable to disallow hot food items bought in the grocery store, but this one is clearly agreeable, since the majority of food stamps go to help families. Beer, wine, and liquor are not eligible for purchase with food stamps. The reasons are obvious, but not even cooking wine is allowed.
So, of course alcohol isn’t allowed, but what about Red Bull? The primary reason that energy drinks may not be allowed is because of the product label chosen by the manufacturer to conform to Food and Drug (FDA) guidelines. Energy drinks that have a nutrition facts label are eligible to be purchased with food stamps, but energy drinks that have supplement facts label are classified by the FDA as a supplement and are therefore not eligible.
Since food stamps does provide benefits to purchase seeds, why not chickens for eggs or meat? The law is also very specific on this matter. Food stamps may not be used to purchase any type of live animal. There are some tax incentives and government programs to help farmers with these types of purchases.
A pumpkin is actually a legitimate item to eat, and therefore allowable, but only if it is listed as a food item and not decoration, whereby it would not be allowed. The label will be the distinguishing feature for this purchase. Inedible gourds and pumpkins that would be used solely for ornamental purposes are not allowed to be purchased with government benefits.
There are some further regulations that decide what you can buy in the bakery of the grocery store. For example, gift baskets that have both food and non-food items are not eligible for SNAP if the value of the non-food items exceeds 50 percent of the purchase price. Birthday cakes and other types of celebratory cakes are also eligible so long as the value of non-edible decorations does not go over 50 percent of the purchase price of the cake.