In 2004, food stamps were replaced with electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards as a new and improved way of providing monetary assistance to low-income households. Along with changing the program name to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), EBT cards help reduce the stigma surrounding government assistance. They look and work like debit cards, which makes it easier for recipients to use their benefits.
If you have been approved for SNAP benefits in Indiana, you must learn how to use them. Many grocery stores and farmers’ markets are authorized to accept EBT cards, which are sometimes referred to as Hoosier Works cards in the state.
While you may buy a large variety of food items with your benefits, there are many grocery-store items that are prohibited according to SNAP guidelines. Knowing which items are approved and which are not will help you navigate the grocery store and use your benefits wisely.
Which food items can you buy using food stamps in Indiana?
The SNAP program guidelines in IN focus on the importance of nutritious foods. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that you mainly use your benefits for healthy products, otherwise known as staple foods, which will benefit you and the other members of your household.
If you have children, it is particularly important to feed them nutritious meals, which may be otherwise difficult to afford without SNAP. According to the USDA, staple foods include:
- Fruits and vegetables.
- Meat, poultry and fish.
- Vegetarian and vegan meat substitutes, such as tofu, vegetable burgers and seitan.
- Dairy products.
- Bread and grains, such as rice and oats.
Using your SNAP food stamps to buy staple foods will make it easier for you to provide your household members or family with a balanced diet. Moreover, you may use your benefits to buy accessory foods, which are defined as food items that may supplement a meal. Acceptable accessory foods include:
- Pre-packaged snacks, such as granola bars, chips, cookies and crackers.
- Non-alcoholic beverages, such as flavored drinks or soda.
- Baking ingredients.
- Cooking ingredients.
- Condiments, such as ketchup, hot sauce, mustard, mayonnaise, soy sauce, jelly, peanut butter and more.
The benefit guidelines of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program do not prohibit you from purchasing snacks even though they are pre-packaged, because they are not meant to be eaten in the store. In other words, you are not required to buy only items that require cooking, such as fresh vegetables or boxed pasta. In addition, the baking and cooking ingredients you may purchase with your Hoosier Works card include:
- Baking powder and baking soda
- Vanilla extract
- Sugar, honey and maple syrup
- Vegetable oil
You must be careful when purchasing baking ingredients, certain teas and certain gummy snacks. This is because your benefits may only be used on items that have a nutrition label. Certain food items, such as gummy bears, may have a supplement label instead.
Products You Cannot Buy Using Food Stamps in Indiana
Using your Indiana food stamps benefits correctly is important for maintaining your eligibility. If you are caught abusing your EBT card by purchasing unauthorized items, you may lose your benefits. Thus, it is very important for you to understand what types of items may not be purchased with your benefits. Overall, the following items may not be purchased with your EBT card:
- Alcoholic beverages, such as wine, beer and liquor
- Tobacco, cigarettes and vape products
- Live animals
- Hot foods and prepared foods
- Non-food items, such as pet foods, cleaning supplies and toiletries
While these SNAP assistance guidelines are strict, they do have some exceptions. For instance, you are allowed to purchase shellfish with an EBT card, even though they are live animals. On the other hand, they must be removed from the water, and you must intend to eat them at home.
Your SNAP food benefits in Indiana may not be used to buy hot foods, because these are considered restaurant foods by the USDA. This is why restaurants in the state cannot accept EBT cards. According to federal guidelines, a business is considered a restaurant if at least 50 percent of its gross sales are made off of hot and prepared foods.
However, you are within your rights if you decide to purchase baked goods from a grocery store or cold cuts from behind a counter. The key difference is that these items are meant to be eaten at home. Discover all the dos and don’ts of SNAP benefits when you download our free guide.
How are food stamps benefits amounts calculated in Indiana?
A food stamp calculator may help you determine the amount in benefits that you are likely to receive after undergoing the application process. Generally, third-party websites will provide you with an estimate if you provide certain personal details. Information used by a calculator to predict your monthly benefit amount includes:
- The number of people in your household and the age of each person
- Your gross monthly income
- Your resources and forms of unearned income
- Medical expenses
Keep in mind that a food stamp calculator is not the same as a SNAP calculator, which will assess your eligibility for the program.
The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) offers a chart that displays the maximum benefit allotment you may receive based on your household size. For instance, a one-person household will have a maximum benefit allotment of $192. However, this and other benefit amounts are based on an income of $0. In other words, you most likely will not receive the maximum allotment.
When do you start receiving SNAP benefits after applying in Indiana?
If you are approved for the Indiana food stamps program, you will receive a notice from your local Division of Family Resources (DFR) office. Then, your EBT card may be sent to you by mail.
It is important to note that it may take several days for the card to reach your home address. If too much time has passed, however, be sure to contact your DFR office. To gain a better understanding of SNAP benefits, download our free guide.