Food stamps are distributed through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to individuals and families who are having a hard time paying for groceries. Today, food stamps aren’t stamps at all, but credits delivered through a card called the EBT card, which works like a debit card. You can use the card to pay for groceries the same way you would use a bank card.
Prepared meals, whether sold at a grocery store or through a restaurant, are not allowed by SNAP. Generally, if a food has been heated, it can’t be purchased with your EBT card. There are a few exceptions to this rule. For instance, prepared meals offered through the Meals on Wheels Program for the elderly, disabled or homeless can be purchased with food stamps. Individual states may also make additional exceptions for prepared meals offered through other such programs.
While you may consider your pet a member of your family, you cannot buy it food using your food stamps. No pet food qualifies for purchase under the SNAP program, as of 2010.
Alcohol and Tobacco
The food stamp program is meant to provide vital nutrition to individuals and families who cannot afford to buy groceries on their own. Alcohol does not provide nutrition, and is therefore not allowed. No type of alcohol, even cooking wine, can be purchased with food stamps. Likewise, tobacco is banned.
Soap, toothpaste, toilet paper, or anything else that does not qualify as food cannot be purchased with an EBT card.
Vitamins and Medicines
While it’s called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the food stamps program will not buy supplemental assistance in the form of vitamins or nutritional supplements, nor will it purchase any type of medicine or medication.
- GettingFoodStamps.org: What Can I Buy with SNAP/Food Stamps Benefits?
- Food and Nutrition Service. "SNAP Data Tables, Latest Available Month July 2019 State Level Participation & Benefits," Accessed Oct. 21, 2019.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture. "Official USDA Food Plans: Cost of Food at Home at Four Levels, U.S. Average, August 2019," Accessed Oct. 21, 2019.
- Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. "A Quick Guide to SNAP Eligibility and Benefits," Accessed Oct. 21, 2019.
- USDA." What Can SNAP Buy?" Accessed Oct. 21, 2019.
Cynthia Gomez has been writing and editing professionally for more than a decade. She is currently an editor at a major publishing company, where she works on various trade journals. Gomez also spent many years working as a newspaper reporter. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Northeastern University.