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Should SNAP Benefits Only Be Used for Healthy Food?

Whenever the conversation about SNAP benefits comes up, people usually jump to the idea that since it uses taxpayer money, taxpayers should determine what the benefits are used for. If you don’t know, SNAP stands for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. SNAP provides benefits to eligible, low-income individuals and families with a debit card-like system. Funds are transferred to an Electronic Benefits Transfer card, or EBT card. The card is used to buy eligible food in authorized retail food stores. Their different eligibility requirements depend on your state, but generally, they are determined based on your bank balance. Taxpayers should be worried about where their money goes, but we should also be aware of the circumstances of our fellow citizens.

SNAP restrictions

Now, there are already restrictions on what can and cannot be purchased using SNAP benefits. Of course, you can’t buy alcohol, cigarettes or other tobacco. Plus, you can’t buy vitamins or medicine with your benefits. When it comes to food, both prepared foods and hot foods are out of the question. That means you can’t go to the hot food section at your local grocery store, buy a premade potato salad or order from a restaurant. You also can’t buy live animals, like fresh fish or shellfish straight out of the water, or meat slaughtered prior to pick-up from the store. 

Recently, Keke Palmer caught flack for wondering why people who use EBT don’t just buy healthy food. The reality is that many people who receive these benefits live in areas where there aren’t a lot of healthy options. Many low-income areas are surrounded by convenience stores, liquor stores and fast-food restaurants with supermarkets more than 30 minutes away from their homes. These are called “food deserts” and they are very common in the U.S. From  rural areas to inner cities, across the country, people have difficulty accessing fresh, healthy food. It is difficult to limit SNAP benefits further when the reality is that many users would be put in a difficult situation.

The future of SNAP

Thankfully, SNAP is adapting to our changing world. In fact, apps like Instacart are allowing customers to use their SNAP benefits to buy groceries. With many Americans staying at home, having lost their jobs, they need more assistance than ever. Now, they can stay safe and get the food they need. Plus, this is extremely useful for people who live in food deserts. Being able to order from a grocery store a little out of your way gives people the access they never had before to healthier food options. 

Read more about food and money here.

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