What Can You Buy With Food Stamps?

Now called the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP, the food stamp program allows recipients to purchase breads, cereals, fruits, vegetables, meats, seafood, poultry, dairy products and seeds and plants to grow food. SNAP benefits can be used to buy soft drinks, snack foods and frozen desserts. In some areas, restaurants are authorized to accept SNAP benefits to provide low-cost meals for qualified elderly, disabled and homeless people.

According to The U.S. Department of Agriculture, several times since the Food Stamp Act of 1964, Congress has considered limiting what can be purchased with benefits by designating certain foods “luxury” or “non-nutritious.” However, the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 now defines “eligible food” as foods that are intended to be eaten in the home. Accordingly, decorated bakery cakes for special occasions qualify as SNAP purchases. Gift baskets qualify as long as the cost of any non-food contents does not exceed 50 percent of the purchase price. Energy drinks that display a nutrition facts label and edible pumpkins also qualify.

However, SNAP benefits cannot typically be used to buy food prepared to be eaten in a store or other “hot food.” Nor can they be used to buy vitamins and medicines, pet food, soaps, paper products, household supplies, alcohol or tobacco products.