The Arizona Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is run by the Department of Economic Security (DES). These benefits, also known as food stamps, can be used to buy food at grocery stores, supermarkets and some farmers’ markets. However, there are certain items you are not allowed to spend your benefits on.
Therefore, when you participate in the SNAP program in AZ, you will want to familiarize yourself with the items you can and cannot buy. Knowing how and when you will receive your benefits will also help you plan ahead. Below, learn more about this program and discover how your benefit amount is determined.
Which food items can you buy using food stamps in Arizona?
Arizona SNAP food stamps can be spent on a wide range of food items. In general, approved food items fall into one of two categories: staple foods and accessory foods.
Staple foods are items that make up the majority of a nutritional diet. These items can be eaten on their own or cooked with other foods to make a full meal. Examples of food in this category include:
- Proteins such as meat, fish, eggs and poultry.
- Produce, including fresh, frozen or canned fruits and vegetables.
- Dairy products, such as milk, eggs, cheese, butter or infant formula.
- Non-dairy alternatives, such as almond milk or tofu.
- Grains, including bread, cereal, pasta or oats.
Food stamp benefits can also be used to buy accessory foods. An accessory item is something that cannot usually count as a full meal on its own.
Some of these items may be eaten as snacks, but others are used to complement staple foods. Examples of accessory foods you can buy with SNAP benefits include:
- Snacks like cookies, chips, candy or ice cream.
- Ingredients such as flour, baking powder, cooking oil or sugar.
- Condiments and sauces like ketchup, soy sauce or barbeque sauce.
- Beverages including coffee, tea, juice, soda or energy drinks.
- Spices, seasonings and extracts.
Did you know? You can also use Arizona SNAP assistance to buy seeds and plants, which lets you grow your own produce at home. Learn more about the products you can buy by downloading our free guide.
You are allowed to shop with your benefits at grocery stores, supermarkets and farmers’ markets that have agreed to take benefits. Many stores work with the food stamps program, but not all do. Most participating stores will display a logo in the window that tells you benefits are accepted at that location.
While most SNAP assistance is used for local shopping trips, there is no law against spending your benefits in a different state. This is helpful if you live near a bordering state or travel to visit family in other parts of the country. If you plan on using your benefits somewhere else, you may wish to contact the DES before traveling.
Products You Cannot Buy Using Food Stamps in Arizona
To avoid confusion about your SNAP food benefits, it also helps to learn what you cannot buy. In particular, these funds cannot be used on any of the following items:
- Alcohol, including beer, liquor and wine.
- Cigarettes and tobacco products.
- Live animals, except for fish or shellfish that are meant to be eaten.
- Hot or ready-to-eat foods, such as a deli meal or hot pizza.
- Non-food things such as pet food, paper products, cookware, cosmetics or cleaning supplies.
- Medicine, vitamins or supplements.
If you need to buy any of these items, simply pay for them in a separate transaction using a different payment method. You can separate your SNAP-approved items from the ineligible items to avoid confusion in the check-out line.
SNAP benefits also cannot be used in certain locations. For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has not authorized any cruise ships or casinos to take benefits.
Furthermore, you are not usually allowed to use food stamps to buy food at restaurants. There are very few restaurants authorized to take these benefits. Those that are approved usually only serve beneficiaries who are elderly, homeless or disabled and are unable to cook for themselves at home.
Lastly, benefits from the Arizona SNAP program can never be withdrawn as cash from an ATM. You also cannot receive cash back with a purchase, even if you are shopping at an approved grocery store.
There is some confusion about this topic, since other types of benefits may be eligible for cash withdrawals. If you receive more than one type of assistance on your electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card, just keep in mind that your SNAP balance can never be taken out as cash.
How are food stamp benefits amounts calculated in Arizona?
The amount of funds you receive from the program is based on your household size and income. To determine if you meet the eligibility requirements for assistance based on these factors, you can use a food stamp calculator.
When using a SNAP calculator, note that there is no standard amount of benefits awarded to families. However, there is a cap on the amount of benefits a household can receive based on its size. Learn more about how benefits are determined when you download our free guide.
Also keep in mind that your benefit amount may change in the future if your income, resources or household composition changes. You may even lose your benefits if you are no longer eligible. However, these changes must be reported to the DES, and failing to do so may count as a program violation.
When do you start receiving SNAP benefits after applying in Arizona?
Once you are approved for food stamps in Arizona, you will receive benefits no more than 30 days after you submitted your application. If you have extremely limited resources and income, the DES may determine that you qualify for emergency help. In such cases, your benefits may start in less than seven days.
After you start getting SNAP food stamps, your benefits will be available on the same day each month. Your EBT card will be loaded on a certain date based on the first letter of your last name. Moreover, your benefits should be available regardless of whether your date lands on a weekend or holiday.