SNAP Benefits: Can You Use Your EBT Card/Food Stamps to Purchase Soda?

Macro closeup of iced tea or soda with ice cubes and straw in glass.
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SNAP, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and administered at the state level, provides food assistance to low- and no-income households across. The U.S. SNAP benefits can only be used to purchase certain items.

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According to the USDA, EBT cards, which are linked to SNAP accounts, can only be used at certain locations to purchase:

  • Fruits and vegetables.
  • Meat and fish.
  • Dairy.
  • Breads and cereals.
  • Snack foods and non-alcoholic beverages.
  • Seeds and plants, which produce food for the household to eat.

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While not explicitly mentioned, soda can be purchased using SNAP benefits. A 2016 report from the USDA found that sweetened beverages, like soda, are the most commonly purchased items by SNAP recipients across the U.S.

“Cold drinks (fountain drinks, slushies, iced coffee, smoothies, and other similar items, etc.) are eligible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) purchase if they are intended for home consumption,” says the USDA. “The fact that a drink may be sipped while the customer is standing in line does not render it ineligible, as long as it is not otherwise intended for consumption on store premises.”

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SNAP benefits cannot be used to purchase:

  • Alcoholic beverages.
  • Tobacco products.
  • Vitamins, medicines and supplements.
  • Live animals.
  • Foods that are hot at the point of sale.
  • Any nonfood items.

Hot drinks and foods are also not eligible for purchase using SNAP benefits. The Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 defines eligible foods as those that are meant for home consumption.

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About the Author

Josephine Nesbit is a freelance writer specializing in real estate and personal finance. She grew up in New England but is now based out of Ohio where she attended The Ohio State University and lives with her two toddlers and fiancé. Her work has appeared in print and online publications such as Fox Business and Scotsman Guide.
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