Many people with limited income struggle to pay for healthy groceries.
In order to help families obtain healthy food, the government offers something called SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (colloquially known as “food stamps”).
SNAP has limitations on what recipients can buy.
For example, you can’t use your EBT card to buy ready food or prepared food (in most cases).
You also can’t use it to buy paper products, such as toilet paper or napkins.
However, can you buy pumpkins with EBT?
We cover everything you need to know about what you can and cannot buy with SNAP benefits, including pumpkins.
Can You Buy Pumpkins With EBT?
Yes, you can buy pumpkins with your EBT card as long as a qualified store categorizes the pumpkins as “food” as opposed to “decoration.”
Your SNAP benefits are only intended for food items.
If you ask anyone what type of item a pumpkin is, they will likely say “food” or “vegetable.”
That’s also how most stores label pumpkins, as well.
Since you can use your EBT card for grocery items, you can buy most pumpkins you find at your grocery store.
The main exception occurs around Halloween when pumpkins are also sold as decoration.
In this case, you want to be extra careful about which part of the store you get the pumpkin from.
If you get it from the home goods or holiday section of the store, it may not be categorized as food.
Therefore, it will not qualify as something you can purchase with your EBT card.
Plastic pumpkins and other fake pumpkins will not qualify.
After you purchase the pumpkin, what you do with it is up to you.
You don’t necessarily need to treat it as a food.
You can carve the pumpkins and use them as decorations if you want.
Of course, you can cook with the pumpkins if you want, too.
Canned pumpkin always qualifies as a food, so you won’t have to worry about whether it’s a food or a decoration.
Canned pumpkin also works great when you need pumpkin for pumpkin pie or pumpkin pancakes.
You don’t need to cut the pumpkin and remove the contents yourself as you would when cooking with a whole, fresh pumpkin.
It’s also important to note that you can buy pumpkin seeds with food stamps, too.
This allows you to plant pumpkins in your garden.
You can buy all types of seeds as long as they produce food or herbs instead of just flowers.
The same applies to other gourds, such as squash.
It doesn’t matter what state you live in.
You can buy pumpkins categorized as a food in any state.
What Can I Buy With Food Stamps?
You can buy all types of groceries with your EBT card.
You can buy meat, produce, drinks, grains, and dry food.
Things like snacks and desserts can be purchased with EBT, even though they aren’t healthy groceries.
You can also buy herbs and spices and condiments.
As long as they produce fruit, vegetables, or herbs, you can even buy seeds.
Seeds are extremely inexpensive and generate a lot of food for people who put in the work.
There are no limitations on how much of a particular item you can purchase.
You can spend your entire SNAP balance on chips and ice cream if you want.
It’s also okay to buy what some may consider luxury items, such as steak or lobster, with your SNAP benefits.
However, you should be careful to budget your balance carefully and save the splurging for special occasions.
What Can You Not Buy With Food Stamps?
It’s important to understand the limitations of your EBT card.
If you use it incorrectly, it can lead to consequences, such as fines or cancellation of your SNAP benefits.
If one person in a household can’t get benefits, it can affect the ability for everyone else to get benefits as well.
You can only use your food stamps for groceries for people.
However, you can’t buy alcohol or tobacco.
You cannot use it for household goods, such as cleansing supplies or paper products.
It doesn’t matter if the products contribute to cooking, such as silverware or paper plates or cooking racks.
It doesn’t qualify.
You also cannot use it for pet food.
Finally, EBT cannot be used for prepared food or hot food designed to be eaten right then (although some states do have an exception to this rule), such as pizza from a food court.
Restaurant Meal Program
Some states offer a program known as the Restaurant Meal Program.
The RMP offers certain mobility-challenged recipients the opportunity to use their EBT card at certain restaurants since they may not have the ability to cook themselves.
The Restaurant Meals Program (RMP) is available in the following states:
- New York
- Rhode Island
If you live in one of these states, you will need to learn which restaurants are approved in each state.
Some popular options include Subway and McDonald’s.
You also need to ensure that you qualify for the RMP.
Only people who have a disability or have reached a certain age qualify for the RMP.
People who don’t have a disability will not be able to qualify for the RMP.
Of course, the other people in the household get to take advantage of the benefits, too.
When using the RMP, it’s important to understand that restaurants don’t always offer the healthiest or cheapest meal options.
Be careful about how you use your benefits and the foods you decide to eat.
How SNAP Benefits Work
First, you must sign up for SNAP benefits.
You will not get SNAP benefits automatically just because you qualify.
You can fill out the application online, fill out a paper form at your local benefits office, or complete the application over the phone with an associate.
Going to the office or filling it out over the phone are the best options for people with questions or trouble with technology.
However, the online application is the easiest option.
You will need documentation to prove your income and your identity to complete the application.
Not submitting the proper documentation can prolong you getting your benefits.
If completed correctly, you can expect to get your benefits in roughly 30 days.
To qualify for SNAP benefits, your family must not make more than a certain amount of money each month and must not have assets that exceed a certain amount of money.
Remember that you will need to consider everyone who lives in the household.
If one person qualifies but their partner does not, the household as a whole will not qualify since both incomes contribute to the family money.
If there are any changes to your income, you will need to report the change to the proper authorities in a timely manner.
The funds renew on the same day every month.
Leftover benefits roll over to the next month for up to 12 months before the card becomes invalid.
Certain people won’t qualify for benefits, even if they meet the income requirements, such as full-time students and undocumented immigrants.
Employees on strike can’t get benefits, either.
The federal government supplies the money, and the states distribute it.
The amount of money to qualify varies from state to state, so check your state to learn more.
The states with high average income will have higher limits than states with a low average income.
Generally speaking, you will qualify if you are 130% above the poverty line or lower, but there are exceptions.
The money comes in the form of a card.
The card looks just like a debit card or credit card.
The card will go to the person who applied for the benefits.
However, the card is only to be used to supply food for the entire household.
Why Does The Government Supply SNAP Benefits?
During the Great Depression, American citizens were hungry.
People needed help.
As part of the New Deal, President Roosevelt created SNAP benefits to feed the people.
The system has remained largely the same throughout the years with only minor changes.
Without the proper nutrition, people won’t have the energy to go about their day.
Since many healthy options cost more than fast food, people may skip healthy meals all together or resort to unhealthy options that contribute to health problems.
People with health problems won’t be able to work as hard.
More than anything, the SNAP benefits are there to support the innocent children who suffer the most from not getting proper nutrition during their physical development.
Healthy children turn into healthy adults.
It’s also not fair for children to suffer when they didn’t do anything to cause their impoverished conditions.
Using Your EBT Card
Using your EBT card is almost as easy as using your debit card or credit card.
Check your balance before shopping so that you know how much money you have available to you.
First, you must go to a store that accepts EBT.
Most grocery stores and gas stations accept EBT.
You can research the different stores in your area.
However, many stores will have a sign in the window indicating whether they take EBT or not.
When you do visit a store that accepts EBT, you may need to select items that qualify.
If you want to buy items that don’t qualify, you might need to buy them during a second transaction.
Separate all items appropriately.
When buying the items on your EBT card, you will need to select EBT on the credit card machine.
Stores that accept EBT will give you three options: debit card, credit card, and EBT.
If you select the wrong option, it will not get approved.
After you swipe your card and select EBT, you will also need to enter your PIN.
You will get your PIN number when you first get your card.
Only provide your PIN to people you completely trust to use your card carefully.
Can I Take Out Cash With My EBT Card?
You can absolutely take out cash with your EBT card.
However, it’s not necessarily the best use of your SNAP benefits.
To take out cash, you can go to an ATM.
If you go to an ATM, you will need to pay fees.
The fees will reduce your SNAP balance significantly, decreasing the amount of money you can spend on groceries.
You can also only do it about two times a month.
For a better solution, visit a store that offers cash back.
You will be able to get cash without paying any fees.
There also aren’t any limitations on how many times you can get cash back.
Always be careful about who has access to your EBT card.
You have complete responsibility for whom you give the information to.
Since the person will need your unique PIN to take money out of the account, you can’t claim fraud.
You will simply have to wait for your benefits to renew.
If you are worried that your PIN has become compromised, change it online or over the phone.
Why Stores Should Offer EBT
Stores must meet qualifications by offering the right items.
Then, they must apply to offer EBT to customers.
At that point, they will need to upgrade the POS system to support the card.
Why go through all of this effort?
There are numerous reasons stores (and restaurants in qualifying states) want to offer EBT.
First and foremost, it gives them the opportunity to open their doors to more customers.
This can be extremely important in areas where a lot of people have EBT.
Stores that don’t offer it will lose a lot of business in these areas.
Some people don’t have any other way to pay for their food.
You may want to buy pumpkins to make pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving or pumpkin pancakes.
There are so many delicious pumpkin dishes, and pumpkin is so good for you as well!
If you get SNAP benefits, you don’t need to be denied your favorite pumpkin treats.
However, it’s important to understand the limitations of your SNAP benefits.
You can buy pumpkins from a qualifying store as long as the pumpkins are labeled as “food” as opposed to a “decoration.”
That doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t use the pumpkins for decoration instead of food once you get them home, though.