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Why Can’t You Buy Health Food When on Food Stamps?

If you’re using food stamps, you’ve probably wondered: Why can’t you buy health food with food stamps? Many of us think that SNAP benefits cover most of our needs, but some foods are off-limits for food stamp recipients. Hot bars, for instance, are off-limits because they’re already cooked and heated. In fact, the 1970s revisions to the food stamp program changed the definitions, so that you can’t buy hot meals with your food stamps.

The United States economy isn’t working for everyone, and income inequality is at a century high. One-quarter of Americans can’t afford $400 in emergency expenses. One in four people doesn’t have any retirement savings. Low wages are associated with rising costs of living, uneven income, and few benefits. If wages don’t keep pace with costs, food stamp participation will rise. But food stamp recipients aren’t lazy. They’re simply struggling to meet their basic needs.

SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, is a federal program that provides food assistance to low-income households. The federal rules define SNAP eligibility requirements as people with gross income of 130% or less. However, more than 40 states have opted into higher income guidelines. For example, Pennsylvania allows people with gross income of 160%, and individuals with disabled or elderly status can earn up to 200% of the federal poverty level. President Trump has threatened to end the states’ ability to allow near-poor people to receive SNAP benefits. If he gets his way, millions of people could lose this assistance.

SNAP also allows certain purchases, such as gift baskets and similar items. In order to qualify, though, your purchase must contain at least half food. This means that a gift basket containing mostly meat will be rejected. While you can use SNAP funds to buy a gift basket, it won’t count if the nonfood items make up more than 50% of the product’s value.

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