The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Women, Infants and Children (WIC) branch can save you hundreds on groceries each month. SNAP and WIC program benefits can cover the cost of your favorite foods and healthy options from local farmers markets. More and more SNAP and WIC approved stores make it easier to find affordable food options, including ordering online and shipping it to your home.
Most states give you an EBT card if you qualify for either food program. You use the card at stores that accept WIC and SNAP benefits like a credit or debit card. However, the programs have regulations that both the store and you need to follow.
Both the SNAP and WIC program provide food assistance through cash payments. You receive physical SNAP food stamps (like paper vouchers) in select states, but almost all areas use electronic benefits transfer (EBT) cards. Each month, the state replenishes your EBT card for you to purchase qualifying foods.
The foods you can buy with your benefit card depend on the program and personal factors. SNAP gives you an amount based on your household size and income. Your SNAP EBT card will cover the cost of eligible products up to your benefit limit. You cannot purchase more than your award amount, and you cannot buy:
· Alcohol or tobacco products.
· Lottery tickets or scratch-offs.
· Hot or prepared foods.
· Supplements, medicines, or vitamins.
· Household goods or nonfood items.
· Animal or pet food.
· Ornamental food, like gourds.
SNAP benefits can pay for produce, meats, grains, dairy, and other edible products. You can also use SNAP cash for food-producing seeds and plants. The SNAP app can show you which foods you can buy and receipts for healthy meals with program-approved products.
Since the initial goal of SNAP is to decrease food expenses, the government places limits on convenience foods. You typically cannot use your benefit card at restaurants or for hot prepared meals. Very select areas offer the Restaurant Meals Program (RMP) that lets you use your SNAP benefits at certain fast-food establishments that meet the government’s nutritional requirements.
Similarly, benefits do not cover the cost of convenience fees. Many retailers let you use your EBT card for online purchases and deliveries but have additional non-covered fees. For instance, you can use funds for Instacart EBT-approved products, but you will need to pay for delivery and other charges.
The WIC application is a request for designated food packages based on your category. Your food package depends if you are a pregnant woman, have an infant, or have young children. The following are examples of monthly food packages:
· Fully breastfeeding six-month-old infant and postpartum mother – Highest amount of juice, milk, adult and infant breakfast cereal, eggs, bread, produce and meat for infant plus cheese and canned fish and $11 in cash vouchers
· Partially breastfed six-month-old infant and postpartum mother – Juice, milk, adult and infant breakfast cereal, eggs, bread, baby formula, produce for infant, and $11 in cash vouchers
· Fully formula six-month-old infant and postpartum mother – Lowest amount of juice, milk, adult and infant breakfast cereal, eggs, infant formula, produce, and $11 in cash vouchers without bread
· Three-year-old child – Less juice and lowest amount of milk, breakfast cereal, eggs, bread, and $8 in cash vouchers
To successfully apply for food stamps or WIC benefits, you must meet your state’s eligibility requirements. Specific criteria vary by area, but you must have a household income and assets less than the program’s limit.
For WIC application requirements, you must also fall into one of the following categories:
· A pregnant woman
· Postpartum up to six months after birth or the end of the pregnancy
· Have an infant younger than one year
· Have a child younger than five years of age
You may automatically qualify for SNAP or WIC benefits if you participate in other government programs, like TANF or Medicaid. Like SNAP and WIC, your children may qualify for government assistance even if you do not. Learn more about getting affordable health care for all members of your family.