Food Stamps in New York: What Food Is Covered?

by Catherine Lovering ; Updated July 27, 2017
The 'Health Bucks' program in New York encourages farmers' market purchases.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, provides food support to individuals and families in New York and across the United States. Eligible and excluded food purchases are defined by an Act of Congress and therefore uniform across the country. However, New York has specific initiatives for food stamp recipients to encourage healthy eating.

Eligibility and Distribution

SNAP benefits are provided to low-income families and individuals in New York. Eligibility is determined in part by household income. Benefits are applied to an Electronic Benefits Transfer card on a monthly basis. Food stamp recipients can use their EBT cards at authorized retailers and participating farmers' markets in New York.

Allowable Food Purchases

SNAP benefits can be used to purchase breads, cereals, fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, poultry and dairy products, as well as seeds to grow foods.

There are a number of exceptions to this list. For example:

  • Hot food is excluded, although bread still warm from baking is allowed
  • Food prepared for in-store consumption is excluded, although prepared sandwiches to be eaten away from the store are allowed
  • Energy drinks are excluded if they have a "supplement" label, but allowed if they have a "nutrition" label
  • Ornamental gourds are excluded, but edible pumpkins are allowed
  • Gift baskets are allowed, as long as the value of the food items is at least 50 percent of the package cost.

Other products designed for consumption -- including soft drinks, candy, ice cream and snack crackers -- are eligible.

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Excluded Purchases

SNAP does not allow the purchase of any item that cannot be eaten. Specifically, the program excludes soap, paper products, household supplies and pet foods. Also excluded are cigarettes, tobacco, beer, wine and liquor. Vitamins, medicines, hot foods and food to be eaten in-store also are excluded.

New York Incentives

Under the "Health Bucks" program in New York, shoppers receive a $2 coupon for every $5 of food stamps spent at a participating farmers' market. Those coupons can be used at all farmers' markets in New York City. Health bucks also may be distributed by community organizations.

In addition, SNAP recipients can participate in the Eat Smart New York program for free. ESNY provides nutrition education, as well as advice on healthy eating on a budget and shopping for vegetables.

About the Author

Catherine Lovering has written about business, tax, careers and pets since 2006. Lovering holds a B.A. (political science), LL.B. (law) and LL.L. (civil law).

Photo Credits

  • Spike Mafford/Photodisc/Getty Images
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