NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

What Can You Buy with Food Stamps?

July 8, 2014

Forty-seven million American are on food stamps today, a massive increase from the 28.2 million recipients that participated in the program in 2008, writes Hannah Bleau of the Daily Caller.

The mission of the program -- formally, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) program -- is to help "low-income residents and families buy the food they need for good health." But while the U.S. Department of Agriculture explains that SNAP benefits can only be used for healthy foods and necessities such as bread, fruit and vegetables, meat and dairy products, the program has no way to enforce these rules.

As such, the rules operate more like guidelines. In fact, Electronic Benefit Cards, onto which SNAP benefits are loaded, can be used for the following:

  • Fast food: Taco Bell and KFC are two chains that accept EBT cards.
  • Bail: According to reports, convicted felons have used EBT funds as bail money, as it is difficult to trace funds that are withdrawn from ATMs.
  • Strip clubs: According to reports in the New York Post last year, food stamp recipients were making EBT withdrawals at ATMs near and inside strip clubs, porn shops and liquor stores.
  • Lobster: There have been multiple reports of EBT recipients using their cards to purchase lobster.
  • Starbucks: Corporate stores do not accept EBT, but purchasing Starbucks within grocery chains or Target is considered a grocery item.
  • Cash: Some EBT recipients sell their benefits for cash. Craigslist has been a popular venue for these transactions.
  • Cupcakes: Cupcakes and gourmet cakes are considered food under the EBT program, no matter the price.

Now that Colorado has legalized recreational marijuana use, a pot shop called Rite Greens has already confirmed it will accept EBT payments.

Currently, the government spends more than $110 billion a year on food assistance programs.

Source: Hannah Bleau, "11 Things You Didn't Know You Could Buy With Food Stamps," Daily Caller, June 30, 2014


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