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What You Can and Can't Purchase With Your Food Stamp Benefits

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    There's a lot of confusion about what you can and can't purchase with your SNAP benefits. While certain states have enacted legislation that prevent residents of their state to purchase certain products, the majority of states follow the Federal guidelines when it comes to the items you can purchase with your SNAP benefits.

    What you can buy with your SNAP benefits:

    Anything that is labeled food for human consumption. This includes, but is not limited to--breads and cereals, fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, and poultry, and dairy products. This list includes what some may call "junk" food and all seafood's.

    You can purchase live fish with your SNAP benefits, but you can not purchase live animals with your SNAP benefits.

    Certain states have tried to prevent their residents from purchasing certain types of these items, but the law is quite specific:

    "Since the current definition of food is a specific part of the Act, any change to this definition would require action by a member of Congress. Several times in the history of SNAP, Congress had considered placing limits on the types of food that could be purchased with program benefits. However, they concluded that designating foods as luxury or non-nutritious would be administratively costly and burdensome." USDA.gov

    What you can't buy with your SNAP benefits:

    Anything that isn't labeled food for human consumption. You can not purchase liquor, tobacco, pet food, soap, household supplies, and vitamins.

    You may also not use your SNAP benefits to purchase food that is labeled hot or food that will be eaten in the store. This means you can't use your SNAP benefits to purchase that pre-cooked chicken or hand made sandwich that you want to eat in the store.

    I have to admit that I think some of these rules are far too burdensome. I don't really understand why an individual or family who receives SNAP benefits can buy a live fish, but can't buy a live chicken. What do you think?

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    justin412 Wrote:
    I have to admit that I think some of these rules are far too burdensome. I don't really understand why an individual or family who receives SNAP benefits can buy a live fish, but can't buy a live chicken. What do you think?
    Good info. Thanks for sharing. Not buying live animals makes sense to me. I think this is to not have folks buying animals that can be kept as pets: dogs, cats, chickens even. That's the reasoning, I believe.
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    J.K.Logic Wrote: Good info. Thanks for sharing. Not buying live animals makes sense to me. I think this is to not have folks buying animals that can be kept as pets: dogs, cats, chickens even. That's the reasoning, I believe.

    I understand it in theory, but I don't see much difference between a live chicken and a live fish. If you raise chickens properly then you can feed yourself for ages...that is if you really like chicken and eggs. I get why you can't buy a family dog with your benefits and a cow would be way more than your SNAP benefits would pay for, but I see no reason why small animals that are meant for consumption are blacklisted.

    It would be nice if local governments had classes for SNAP recipients to teach them how to garden and grow their own food. If a recipient has a small yard or access to a community garden then they would be able to grow a plethora of food items. I understand that wouldn't be an option for every recipient, but it could be for many.

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    Deraj Wrote:

    It would be nice if local governments had classes for SNAP recipients to teach them how to garden and grow their own food. If a recipient has a small yard or access to a community garden then they would be able to grow a plethora of food items. I understand that wouldn't be an option for every recipient, but it could be for many.

    Good points. I would love to see them expand the program. Classes that include teaching how to rooftop garden in the city even would be awesome.
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    J.K.Logic Wrote: Good points. I would love to see them expand the program. Classes that include teaching how to rooftop garden in the city even would be awesome.
    I agree. I would love to see them expand the program, but also invest in the things that will help a person learn to grow their own food. That not only ensures that people will have food on the table, but feel like they have skin in the game, as well.