Restrictions on using food stamps

V. Kumar By V. Kumar, 16th Apr 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Money Saving Tips

Food Stamps are a very important means for ensuring minimum nutrition of poor households, but there are a number of restrictions placed on the way these Food Stamps can be used. The aim is to ensure the efficacy of this scheme. Whether it is the best way of administering Food Equity is a question that remains to be answered.


Food stamps are provided with the sole objective of supplementing nutrition of those Americans who do not have the money to buy themselves proper nutrition. To ensure that this benefit is not wasted for other purposes, a number of restrictions are placed on the use of food stamps.

Objective of Nutritional Supplement : Policy & Law

Section 2 of the Food & Nutrition Act of 2008 describes the policy of U.S. Congress for initiating the Food Stamps program in these words,

"To alleviate such hunger and malnutrition, a supplemental nutrition assistance program is herein authorized which will permit low-income households to obtain a more nutritious diet through normal channels of trade by increasing food purchasing power for all eligible households who apply for participation."

Section 3 (k) of the same Act defines 'food' in this way,

"Food means (1) any food or food product for home consumption except alcoholic beverages, tobacco, and hot foods or hot food products ready for immediate consumption ...., (2) seeds and plants for use in gardens to produce food for the personal consumption of the eligible household,..."

It goes on to add a number of conditions and restrictions that govern the use of food stamps.

Restrictions on using Food Stamps

As the policy and the law that governs the food stamps program makes it explicit and clear, the food stamps are a benefit provided for a very specific purpose - the nutritional well being of the nation, and nothing else. Thus, food stamps are very different from all other kinds of assistance and benefits where the recipient has sole rights on how to use them. In the case of food stamps, they can only be used for the purpose of purchasing certain food that will add nutrition to the diet of the household.

Food Items that can be purchased using food stamps

The followed items can be purchased using the food stamps:

1. Foods for the household to eat, such as:
- breads and cereals
- fruits and vegetables
- meats, fish and poultry; and
- dairy products

2. Seeds and plants which produce food for the household to eat.

Food Items that cannot be purchased using food stamps

The following items cannot be purchased using the food stamps:
- Beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes or tobacco
- Any non-food items, such as:
- pet foods;
- soaps, paper products; and
- household supplies.
- Vitamins and medicines.
- Food that will be eaten in the store.
- Hot foods

Other Restrictions on using Food Stamps

Certain restaurants can be authorized to accept food stamp benefits from qualified homeless, elderly, or disabled people in exchange for low-cost meals, and certain organizations can collect food stamp benefits for providing meals and food to old or disabled eligible persons. However, food stamp benefits cannot be exchanged for cash in any case.

Another restriction imposed on food stamps is for online purchases made on the Internet. As of now, this facility of using Electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards for food stamps on the internet is not made available due to problems and issues of security. However, some states allow access to EBT card accounts online to see the total benefits account of the household.

The food stamp benefits added to your account for the month, if unused would be carried over to the next month, but there are restrictions on this too. If these benefits continue to remain unutilized beyond 9 to 12 months (depending upon the state), then the food stamps office may initiate the process of removing those benefits from your account. So these benefits can be accumulated indefinitely, and must be utilized within a certain time frame of 9 to 12 months.

Overall Assessment of Food Stamp Restrictions

Providing subsidy for a specific purpose is always a challenge for the government agencies, as the needs of keeping the process easy and simple have to be balances with the objective of ensuring that the program is utilised by the intended beneficiaries and for the intended purpose. Most of these restrictions on food stamps are part of this balancing endeavour.


Food Nutrition Act Of 2008, Food Safety, Food Stamp Restrictions, Food Stamps, Food Subsidy, Food Supplementation, Restrictions On Food Stamps, Using Food Stamps

Meet the author

author avatar V. Kumar
I am a free lance author who writes for the sake of expressing myself. I like to share what I know and learn from the experiences of anyone willing to share it.

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author avatar Carol
16th Apr 2011 (#)

Very interesting share, many thanks

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author avatar Retired
16th Apr 2011 (#)

If food stamps are supposed to allow for the poorer households to be able to supplement better nutritious meals, why are you allowed to buy soda? (Well, except soda that's sold at the service deli, that is.) Soda isn't nutritious, yet you're allowed to purchase it with food stamps.

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author avatar PHYLLIS LOGIE
16th Apr 2011 (#)

If soap is not allowed to be purchased how are poor people supposed to keep themselves clean. I can understand alcohol and tobacco. Informative piece. thank you

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author avatar Humza
17th Apr 2011 (#)

great one V.kumar!
thnx for sharing! :)

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author avatar Denise O
17th Apr 2011 (#)

Good review of the food stamp system. Thank you for sharing.:)

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author avatar V. Kumar
18th Apr 2011 (#)

Thanks you all for encouraging words and comments.

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author avatar Yvonnek
3rd May 2011 (#)

I can see not being able to buy alcohol and tobacco products on food stamps, however I don't see the big deal about getting a hot meal on food stamps because not everyone knows how to cook. As far as buying nutritious food, I don't think the government has the right to people how to eat.

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author avatar Md Rezaul Karim
22nd Dec 2011 (#)

Retirement and coupons are very much correlated someways..

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