What are SNAP benefits?


Quick Answer

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program provides food from the five major food groups to qualified low-income Americans. Recipients can also use benefits to purchase seeds and plants capable of producing food, and in some areas they are allowed to use benefits at certain restaurants.

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Full Answer

SNAP benefits exclude alcohol, tobacco, paper products and all other non-food items, but they include junk foods, such as candy, chips and soft drinks. Energy drinks must contain a "nutrition facts" label to be eligible for SNAP purchase. To further its goal of teaching healthy eating habits, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service, which administers SNAP, partners with schools and farmers' markets to provide healthy food choices for recipients.

Healthy foods, such as breads, cereals, fruits and vegetables, are part of the major food groups and are included in SNAP benefits, which also include meats, poultry and dairy products. Although hot foods and foods served in stores are generally not included in the SNAP program, low-cost restaurant meals are available to qualified elderly, disabled and homeless SNAP recipients in certain areas. Lobster, other shellfish and pumpkins can be purchased using SNAP benefits, and gift baskets are SNAP-eligible if more than half of the items are normally eligible for SNAP.

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