SNAP Benefits: Can You Use EBT Card/Food Stamps To Purchase Hot Food?

Girl holding a hamburger in her hands sitting in a car. Unhealthy eating concept stock photo
Wojciech Kozielczyk /

SNAP gives eligible low-income households extra food-purchasing assistance to supplement food budgets. Funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and administered at the state level, SNAP benefits can only be used to purchase eligible items.

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

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

Generally, food that is hot when sold or food that is sold to be eaten in the store cannot be purchased with your EBT card. This also rules out rotisserie chicken and prepared deli foods. However, you may be able to purchase a hot meal at a restaurant using your SNAP benefits if your state participates in the Restaurant Meals Program.

The RMP is a state option that allows particular SNAP recipients who might not be able to prepare a meal for themselves to buy prepared meals at restaurants with their SNAP benefits.

The SNAP recipient must reside in a state with the RMP, and all members of the household must meet at least one of the following eligibility criteria:

  • 60 years of age or older
  • Disabled
  • Homeless
  • The spouse of a SNAP recipient who is eligible for RMP

Currently, only nine states participate in RMP, including Arizona, California, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Rhode Island and Virginia. New York will begin offering the program in 2024. However, not all counties offer RMP and not every restaurant participates in the program.

Make Your Money Work for You

If you’re eligible to use your SNAP benefits at restaurants, make sure to call ahead to check whether or not that location accepts EBT cards as payment for meals.

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