The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, is America’s most important anti-hunger program. In 2021, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimated that SNAP provided food security to 41.5 million people, with an average benefit of $218.14 per person.
Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards are used by recipients to receive payments and make purchases, and they may buy a lot more than just groceries with them. Here are some of the more odd expenses that SNAP will cover.
At Least Some Energy Drinks
Energy drinks can be purchased with SNAP subsidies, but only if they meet the USDA’s stringent requirements. According to New York SNAP EBT, if an energy drink contains a “nutritional facts” label, it qualifies.
If it says “supplemental information” on the package, it’s a supplement and can’t be bought with EBT. That implies Red Bull, Rockstar, and Starbucks Double Shot pass the test, but not 5 Hour Energy, Bang Shot, or Tweaker.
The Kind of Coffee and Tea You Make Yourself
You may use SNAP to buy packaged coffee, including Keurig-style K-cups, as well as creamer. You cannot, however, buy ready-to-drink coffee. If you believe you’ll make your own coffee at home and only drink tea when you’re out, you’ll be disappointed.
Tea is also limited to packaged and unbrewed varieties because the USDA prohibits the use of SNAP monies to purchase any hot beverages.
Hunting and fishing equipment are available, but you must live in a remote location
Even if you live in the country and kill your own food, you won’t be able to use your EBT card to buy a new fiberglass rod at Bass Pro Shops. However, hunting and fishing equipment is SNAP-eligible for a very small demographic.
According to the USDA, due to the tremendous difficulties of purchasing food in supermarkets, some individuals in Alaska’s most remote areas rely nearly entirely on hunting and fishing to feed their families.
The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services issues unique identity cards to qualifying households. They cannot purchase guns or ammunition, but they can purchase nets, rods, harpoons, lines, and knives.
Restaurant Food for Specific People in Specific Locations
If you qualify for the SNAP Restaurant Meals Program (RMP) and live in a state that participates, you can use SNAP to pay for dine-in restaurant meals. RMP assists vulnerable populations such as the elderly, the homeless, and the crippled.
Qualifying diners must be offered meals at “concessional prices” by participating eateries.
While not as restricted as Alaska’s subsistence hunting program, RMP is only used by a few states. It’s available in California, Arizona, Michigan, Maryland, and Virginia, as well as in some Rhode Island counties.
Plants and Seeds
SNAP beneficiaries can use their EBT cards to buy edible plants like basil or food-producing plants like tomato plants, as well as seeds for growing their own food, according to the USDA.
The USDA claims that for every $1 spent on seeds and fertilizer, you may grow $25 worth of vegetables, but Modern Farmer claims that this vital feature is one of the least recognized aspects of the entire SNAP program.
Seeds and plants can be purchased with your EBT card at any SNAP-approved vendor, including farmer’s markets.
Depending on What’s Inside, Gift Baskets
You can use SNAP dollars to buy gift baskets and other comparable items as long as at least half of what’s inside is edible, according to the USDA. Nonfood products like toys, stockings, and tins don’t count if “the value of the non-food element of the item obviously accounts for more than 50% of the purchase price,” according to the USDA.
A stuffed holiday bear with a modest package of chocolate, for example, won’t count, according to the agency. However, a gift basket with mostly meat and cheese might suffice.
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Live animals, like tobacco, alcohol, vitamins, and medicine, are on the USDA’s list of items that cannot be purchased with SNAP benefits. Shellfish, “fish withdrawn from the water,” and “animals murdered prior to pick-up from the store” are among the few exceptional exclusions.
That implies that, while you can’t use your EBT card to purchase a puppy from a pet store, you may use SNAP to purchase a lobster to bring home and cook on your stovetop.
Variety of Snacks
Most people are aware that SNAP beneficiaries can use their EBT cards to purchase household grocery basics such as meat, milk, eggs, veggies, and bread, but few are aware of the extensive list of snacks recognized by the USDA.
Everything from marshmallows and marzipan to pudding and popsicles is included.
Cakes, pies, doughnuts, muffins, pastries, and other cakey and flaky treats, as well as chips, crisps, popcorn, and various finger foods, are all on the list.
Ice cream, sweets, chocolate, custard, scones, churros, and a whole lot more are all approved by the USDA; in fact, if a youngster can dream it, SNAP is likely to cover it.