The food stamp program – now known officially as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP – is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The goal is to alleviate hunger and malnutrition, as stated in the Food Stamp Act of 1977, according to the Food Research and Action Center. The program provides food benefits to low-income American citizens and legal residents. Although a federal government program, the nutrition assistance program is run by state or local agencies. Most individuals who receive food stamp benefits run the gamut from the underemployed, elderly, children, disabled or those who are otherwise unable to work.
Grocery Food Items
The EBT card, which is similar to a bank debit card and holds the user's monthly benefits, can be used to purchase regular food items, including breads, cereals, fresh or packaged fruits and vegetables, meats, fish, poultry, juices, soda pop, snack items, nuts and dairy products.
Seeds and Plants
Seeds and plants which produce food for the household to eat are also allowable food purchases, according to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program website. This has proven to be beneficial to farming families who grow their own fruits and vegetables for consumption.
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Some areas allow restaurants to accept food benefits for the purchase of low-cost meals if the person getting food benefits is homeless, disabled or elderly. Contact your state agriculture department to see if low-cost meals can be purchased in your state.
Sweets and Bakery Items
Cookies, cakes, pies, donuts, breads and other bakery items are also allowable food purchases. Items such as birthday and other special occasion cakes are eligible for purchase with food stamp benefits as long as the cost of non-edible decorations is not more than 50 percent of the cake's purchase price, according to the USDA.
Originally, no energy drink could be purchased with food stamp benefits. Currently, only energy drinks sporting a nutrition facts label are eligible purchases. Energy drinks with a supplement facts label are classified as supplements by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and are therefore not eligible food stamp purchases, according to the USDA.
Packaged Sandwiches and Deli Foods
Only packaged sandwiches and deli foods that are cold, and that will be eaten at home, can be purchased with food stamps at a deli, grocery or convenience store. This can include chicken, salads, sliced deli meat and regular sandwiches. Some convenience stores do not accept food EBT cards. Those that do usually post a graphic or picture of the card on the store front or at the cash register.