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Learn About SNAP Benefits in Hawaii

The Hawaii food stamps program helps approximately 25,000 low-income households get the assistance they need to afford nutritious foods. Also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), this is a federal entitlement program in which those who qualify can receive monthly benefits to put towards their food budget.

The program is federally funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and administered to state agencies through its Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). In Hawaii, the Department of Human Resources (DHS) Benefit, Employment & Support Services Division (BESSD) is responsible for administering the program at a state and local level.

Food stamps were once paper vouchers that can be exchanged for food. Today, SNAP benefits are administered to each recipient through an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card. Much like a debit card, this card can be used to purchase eligible foods at authorized grocery stores, convenience stores and farmers’ markets.

Are you wondering what type of foods you can purchase with SNAP? Read below to learn all about food stamp benefits, including how much you can receive in benefits each month if you qualify for SNAP.

Which food items can you buy using food stamps in Hawaii?

The purpose of the SNAP program in Hawaii is to give needy individuals and families access to nutritious foods so that they can cook healthy meals. As such, the program allows recipients to buy a variety of foods to help them achieve a well-rounded, balanced diet.

If you are a food stamps recipient, you may be wondering how to craft your grocery list so that you can use your benefits accordingly. You can use your EBT card to purchase any of the following food items:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Breads and cereal
  • Meat, poultry and fish
  • Dairy products
  • Seeds and plants which produce food

These staple foods are essential for a healthy diet. However, SNAP does not limit beneficiaries to these nutritious foods. They also have the freedom to buy frozen and packaged foods.

Additionally, SNAP recipients can buy accessory food items. These include certain snacks such as chips, nuts, cookies and ice cream for dessert.

Accessory foods also include items that add flavor to or enhance your meals. These include seasonings, oils, condiments, dressings and gravies. You can also purchase cooking or baking ingredients with SNAP benefits. This can include:

  • Flavor extracts and cooking wine.
  • Baking soda and baking powder.
  • Vegetable oil, olive oil, shortening, lard.
  • Sugar, honey, maple syrup and other natural or artificial sweeteners.

With SNAP food stamps, you can also buy non-alcoholic beverages, such as soda, iced tea and other juices. To learn more about the type of food items you can buy with SNAP, download our free guide.

Products You Cannot Buy Using Food Stamps in Hawaii

While you can buy a substantial amount of food and drinks with food stamps in Hawaii, there are certain items that are off-limits. For example, you cannot purchase any alcoholic beverages, such as wine, beer or liquor.

Furthermore, you cannot purchase vitamins, medicine or any item with a supplement fact label. This means that while gummy bears are acceptable, gummy vitamins are not. Be sure to check for nutritional labels when shopping for groceries.

Cigarettes and tobacco products are also prohibited. This includes chewing tobacco, e-cigs or e-cig refills. The following nonfood items are additional products you cannot buy using food stamps benefits:

  • Cleaning and household supplies
  • Hygiene products and cosmetics
  • Pet food

The SNAP program also prohibits the purchase of live animals. This does not include fish and shellfish. Furthermore, benefits will not cover hot or prepared foods that you can eat in-store.

Though many grocery and convenience stores include food counters, pizza shops and sandwich shops, SNAP does not cover these items. This may also include cold deli sandwiches that were prepared ahead of time and ready to go.

Unfortunately, you cannot use your EBT card at any restaurant or fast food establishment either. If you try to use your SNAP food benefits for an item that is not approved, your purchase will be declined.

How are food stamps benefits amounts calculated in Hawaii?

You may be wondering how much in SNAP benefits you are eligible to receive each month. In Hawaii, allotments are calculated based on your income and household size. Therefore, you will need to have a good understanding of what SNAP takes into account when evaluating your income.

Your household’s income can also include income from self-employment, as well as any investments or savings that you may have. There are certain deductions, such as child care, that can be reduced from your income as well.

To estimate your eligibility for monthly SNAP benefits, consider using a food stamp calculator from a third-party source before you submit an application. A SNAP calculator will help determine your allotment based on your monthly rent or mortgage and utility expenses.

Additionally, the amount your family is eligible to receive can be altered if a member in your family is disabled or 60 years of age or older. Knowing your chance of approval can lower your risk of being denied benefits.

When do you start receiving SNAP benefits after applying in Hawaii?

If you are deemed eligible for SNAP benefits, then you will receive an EBT card in the mail. You can expect for benefits to be automatically deposited into your account each month. The day of the month that your EBT is refilled will be dependent on Hawaii’s EBT issuance schedule.

In some cases, you may be eligible to receive food stamps within seven days of submitting your application. However, this only applies if your household has less than $150 in monthly gross income and $100 in liquid resources.

You may also be able to receive benefits immediately if your family’s combined monthly gross income is less than your monthly housing expenses. This includes rent or mortgage and utility expenses. Learn more about the benefits you can get in Hawaii by downloading our free guide.

Last Updated: September 26, 2022