What Can I Not Buy With Food Stamps?

••• Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images

The federal government and the United States Department of Agriculture renamed the program known for years as food stamps. This program is SNAP, an acronym for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 redefined the program. States have adopted new names for the program as well, with some using SNAP and others choosing names easier to relate to food assistance. SNAP benefits arrive on a debit card for use at the grocery store. Requirements to qualify for SNAP and use SNAP benefits have changed as well.


Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program qualifications are similar to other federal assistance programs such as Supplemental Security Income. You may have a house, car, burial plots, home furnishings, along with life insurance and burial insurance of $1,500. You may also have $2,000 in assets or resources, or $3,000 if someone over age 60 lives in your household. Able-bodied applicants must meet work criteria. All household members must have Social Security numbers or apply for a number. Gross income must be 130 percent or less of the federal poverty guidelines, and net income must be 100 percent or less of the federal poverty guidelines.


You may purchase qualifying food products with your electronic card from your state food assistance program. You may also purchase seeds to plant for food or plants that produce food to eat. Soft drinks, cookies, candy and ice cream are eligible as food items. The Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 that regulates eligible SNAP purchases defines food as any food product or food for home consumption.

Disallowed Purchases

You cannot pay for foods that will be eaten in the store or hot foods such as those available in the deli or under food warmers with your food assistance card. You cannot purchase vitamins and medicines with your electronic benefits transfer card for SNAP benefits. The SNAP program does not allow pet food purchases. Paper products do not qualify for SNAP benefits; nor do purchases you might find at the drug store such as soap and household supplies. Grooming items and cosmetics are not approved purchases. You cannot pay for alcoholic beverages and tobacco products with your state benefits card.

Other Disallowed Items

The USDA. does not allow the purchasing of live animals with your SNAP EBT card. Energy drinks that have some nutritional value may qualify, but energy drinks that are supplements do not. Power bars and similar products that have supplement facts labels instead of nutrition labels do not qualify. You cannot buy ornamental gourds and items not for food with the card, but pumpkins as an edible are a valid purchase. You may purchase gift baskets if the nonedibles account for no more than 50 percent of the purchase price. The same rule applies to special-occasion cakes: the edible portion must account for at least 50 percent of the value.