The Arkansas Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is available for low-income families and individuals who need help paying for healthy food. These benefits, also known as food stamps, can be used to buy a wide range of items at grocery stores, supermarkets and certain farmers’ markets. Many types of food are eligible for purchase under this program, including cooking ingredients, staple foods and even snacks and beverages.
Under SNAP, there are also items that you cannot buy. Knowing how to use your card and what you are allowed to buy will make it easier to plan ahead. Below, learn more about SNAP food stamps in Arkansas and discover the rules you need to know about using benefits.
Which food items can you buy using food stamps in Arkansas?
The first step in using your benefits is to learn where your card will be accepted. When you are approved for food stamp benefits, you will receive an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card that looks and works similar to a debit card. Stores that accept EBT cards will usually place a logo in the window, making it easy to identify places you can shop.
SNAP assistance is accepted at most major and local grocery stores, supermarkets and department stores that have a grocery section. You can also use your benefits at certain farmers’ markets that participate in the program.
Did you know? At participating farmers’ markets in Arkansas, your food stamps have double value during summer months. This allows you to buy twice as much produce for the same cost.
SNAP benefits can help you buy a wide variety of staple foods. Staple foods are things that make up the majority of a person’s diet, and often count as a whole meal on their own. Examples of staple foods include:
- Protein, such as meat, fish, poultry, tofu or eggs.
- Dairy products like butter, milk, cheese or infant formula.
- Non-dairy alternatives, like almond milk or soy products.
- Grains, including bread, cereal or pasta.
- Fruits and vegetables that are canned, frozen or fresh.
SNAP program benefits can be spent on accessory foods as well. Accessory foods include items that cannot generally be eaten alone as a full meal, such as cooking ingredients, snacks, beverages, condiments and other similar items. A few examples of accessory foods are:
- Flour, sugar or spices.
- Tea, coffee or soda.
- Ketchup, mayonnaise or barbeque sauce.
- Cooking oil or olive oil.
Products You Cannot Buy Using Food Stamps in Arkansas
There are many places where you can shop with SNAP food benefits in Arkansas, but you are not allowed to spend your benefits on every type of item. In particular, these benefits cannot be used to buy any of the following things:
- Alcohol, liquor, tobacco or cigarettes.
- Medicine, vitamins or supplements, which includes anything with a “Supplement Facts” label.
- Hot or ready-to eat food items, such as a hot pizza or rotisserie chicken.
- Non-food items like cookware, cleaning supplies or pet food.
Even though many of these items are sold at participating grocery stores, you cannot spend your benefits on them. If you wish to buy any prohibited items, you must pay for them in a separate transaction with a different payment method.
While there are a number of items that SNAP food stamps cannot be used on, there are also several places where you cannot use your EBT card at all. For example, benefits cannot be used in casinos or on cruise ships.
Even if you find a food item that you would otherwise be able to buy with your benefits, you will be unable to use your card at one of these places. The food stamps program also does not work with most restaurants. The few restaurants that do accept benefits are usually only allowed to serve SNAP participants who are elderly, disabled or homeless.
Lastly, it is important to be aware that you cannot withdraw your benefits as cash. This means you cannot take food stamps out at an ATM or get cash back with a purchase at a grocery store.
Other types of benefits may be eligible for cash withdrawals, which can create confusion. If you have more than one type of benefit on your EBT card, just keep in mind that SNAP funds can never be taken out as cash. Learn more about how and where you can use your benefits by downloading our free guide.
How are food stamp benefits amounts calculated in Arkansas?
A food stamp calculator can be a helpful tool when you are preparing to apply for assistance. This is because it is designed to give you an idea of whether or not you qualify for assistance.
A SNAP calculator can also estimate the amount of benefits you may be eligible to receive each month. Ultimately, things such as your income, household size and household composition will determine your qualification and the amount of benefits you are allowed to receive.
Using a SNAP benefits calculator can also be helpful if your circumstances change in the future. Any change to your income or household may affect the amount of benefits you can get.
Keep in mind that most changes must be reported to the Department of Human Services (DHS), which oversees this program. Failing to report changes can affect your ability to continue getting benefits.
When do you start receiving SNAP benefits after applying in Arkansas?
Knowing when you can expect your food stamps to begin will help you plan ahead. In most cases, you will start getting benefits within 30 days of applying.
However, the DHS will expedite your application if you have extremely limited income and resources. If you are eligible for emergency food assistance, your benefits may start in less than seven days.
In most cases, SNAP benefits will be available in your account the same day each month. Furthermore, benefits should show up on the same day regardless of whether that date falls on a weekend or holiday.
This makes it easier for you to plan ahead for shopping trips. Learn more about getting Arkansas SNAP assistance when you download our free guide.