Learn How To Apply For Food Stamps With Our Guide

Learn How To Apply For Food Stamps With Our Guide

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Food stamps in Idaho are distributed through local health and welfare offices. Qualified applicants receive their benefits on electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards, which are also called quest cards in the state. Quest cards work just like debit cards, which makes it easier to purchase qualifying items in a store. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which is run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), made the switch from food stamps to EBT cards in the 1990s.

If you meet the requirements for SNAP benefits, you must learn what types of foods you can purchase and which types of products are prohibited. This will help you navigate farmers’ markets and grocery stores more easily. It will also help you maintain your eligibility, as you must follow the program rules and regulations if you want to continue receiving benefits.

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

The SNAP program in ID lists a variety of acceptable food items that you may purchase with a quest card. Generally, the USDA recommends that you purchase mainly staple food items with your benefits. Staple food items are basic foods that will give you a balanced diet, such as:

  • Fruits and vegetables.
  • Meat, poultry and fish.
  • Dairy products.
  • Grains, breads and cereals.

Note: If you are vegetarian or vegan, you may also purchase meat substitutes, such as tofu, bean burgers and seitan. These would still be considered staple foods.

Keep in mind that your SNAP food stamps are not limited to staple foods. You may also use your quest card to buy “accessory” items as defined by the USDA, including:

  • Certain snack foods, including granola bars, pretzels, chips or cookies.
  • Certain beverages, such as soda or fruit drinks.
  • Baking ingredients, including flour, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla extract, sugar, honey and maple syrup.
  • Cooking ingredients, such as oil, vinegar and spices.
  • Condiments, including ketchup, mustard, hot sauce, mayonnaise, relish, horseradish and soy sauce.

It is important to understand that foods approved under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program do not have to be fresh or require cooking and preparation. In other words, you may use your quest card to purchase certain pre-packaged foods, as long as they are not meant to be eaten in a store.

Additionally, your benefits may be used to buy seeds or plants that will grow food. For instance, you may be able to buy vegetable seeds such as tomato seeds, or seeds for spices and herbs such as rosemary, mint or basil. For an explanation of what you can buy with your monthly benefits, download our free guide.

Products You Cannot Buy Using Food Stamps in Idaho

There are a number of restrictions on food stamp benefits in Idaho that will prevent qualified applicants from buying certain items. Most authorized grocery stores and farmers markets sell non-food items, so the USDA has restrictions in place to prevent beneficiaries from abusing their benefits.

Generally, your quest card will reject the purchase of prohibited items and may stop working in an unauthorized store. In addition, each purchase you make with your quest card is recorded. You may not use your Idaho SNAP assistance to buy the following items, including:

  • Alcoholic beverages, such as wine, beer and liquor
  • Tobacco, cigarettes and vape products
  • Supplements
  • Live animals
  • Hot foods and prepared foods
  • Pet foods
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Toiletries

You may not use your SNAP food benefits to buy prepared foods and hot meals because they are considered restaurant items. That is why restaurants are not authorized to accept quest cards in the state. According to the USDA, a business is considered a restaurant when it makes more than 50 percent of its gross sales off of prepared and heated foods.

Supplements are another area of confusion. In general, you may not use your quest card to buy vitamins, medicines and other dietary additives, even though they are edible. If you do not know whether an item is a food or a supplement as defined by the USDA, check its label. Items with nutrition labels are acceptable under SNAP regulations, while items with supplement labels are not.

Finally, the food stamps program rules prohibit the purchase of live animals, unless you are buying shellfish that are removed from the water. Certain other exceptions may apply.

How are food stamps benefits amounts calculated in Idaho?

You may use a food stamp calculator to help you determine an estimate of your monthly benefit allotment. To use a calculator, submit information about your income, the number of people in your family, your assets and more. Remember that this calculator is not the same as a SNAP calculator, which helps predict your eligibility.

Each household size has a different maximum benefit allotment. For example, the maximum benefit a household of one may receive is $281. This number may vary depending on the current regulations. You may also be able to estimate your own food stamps allotment depending on:

  • Your household’s total gross and net income.
  • The number of people in your household.
  • Whether any household members are children, seniors or have a disability.
  • The amount you pay in medical expenses if you are a senior or a person with a disability.

To learn more about SNAP benefits, download our free guide.

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

If you receive an approval notice from the SNAP program in ID after filing your application, you will receive a quest card soon after. From there, your monthly benefits may be loaded into your quest account within 30 days. Note that your assigned issuance date is based on the last digit of your birth year.

You may receive your benefits more quickly if your application was expedited due to extreme circumstances. In this case, you may receive a quest card and your monthly benefits within seven days.

Last Updated: February 23, 2023