Food stamps, known officially as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), help low-income families and individuals pay for groceries on a monthly basis. The Maine food stamps program is also known as the Food Supplement program.
Once you complete the application process and get approved for assistance, you may begin to wonder “how can I use my SNAP benefits?” In order to participate in the program, your purchases must align with the rules and regulations set forth by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). That means that you are only permitted to purchase certain items.
Which food items can you buy using food stamps in Maine?
SNAP is designed to help recipients access affordable, healthy meals. With your ME SNAP benefits, you may purchase both staple and accessory food items. Staple foods are those that make up the majority of a healthy and balanced diet. Therefore, foods included in this category include:
- Bread and cereal.
- Fruits and vegetables.
- Meat, poultry and fish.
- Dairy products.
You may buy these items fresh or in a frozen or packaged form. In fact, because these items are staples in a healthy diet, there is no limitation on how you may purchase them, as long as the purchased product does not have any disqualifying characteristics (See below).
Accessory foods include items that fall outside of the staple food category. Accessory foods include certain snacks and dessert foods. However, it also includes items that would supplement or compliment a meal, such as cooking ingredients or seasonings. Although the SNAP program is designed to help families access healthy meals, keep in mind that not all eligible foods are necessarily healthy, such as certain accessory food items.
Products You Cannot Buy Using Food Stamps in Maine
There are certain products that are off-limits for purchase under the SNAP program in ME. One of the biggest categories of these products is non-food items. While this may seem obvious, keep in mind that oftentimes, grocery stores sell non-food items, as they are part of monthly necessities. Some examples of non-food items that you cannot purchase with SNAP benefits include:
- Pet food.
- Household supplies.
- Hygiene products.
In addition to these items, you must also be aware that several consumable products are also not eligible for purchase with food stamp benefits. These include:
- Alcohol and tobacco products.
- Live animals.
- Prepared food.
- Hot food.
- Medicines, vitamins and supplements.
SNAP food stamps cannot be used to purchase food for immediate consumption. Therefore, you may not use your benefits to purchase food at a restaurant. However, this also includes prepared or hot foods that are sold within store settings.
For example, some delis in grocers sell hot chicken wings or other dishes that are ready for consumption at the point of purchase. These items may not be bought with food stamps even if you plan to consume the product at a later time. You may look for certain labels to help identify these products, such as “hot-and-ready” or “grab-and-go.”
Additionally, understanding what constitutes a supplement is helpful in understanding what you may purchase using your benefits. Sometimes, eligible items are very similar to ineligible vitamins or supplements. For example, gummy vitamins may be confused with gummy snacks. Additionally, some teas are considered herbal supplements, while others are considered beverages.
The biggest indicator that you may use to help you identify this difference is to look at the product label. If the product has a Nutrition Facts label, it is likely eligible for purchase. Conversely, if the product has a Supplement Facts label, it is not eligible for purchase with SNAP food stamps.
For more information on what you can and cannot buy using your SNAP benefits, download our free guide.
How are food stamps benefits amounts calculated in Maine?
The amount of SNAP benefits you receive will be determined by your household’s size and net monthly income. The USDA has preset maximum allotments for SNAP allotments according to household size.
As a SNAP recipient, your household is expected to spend at least 30 percent of its net monthly income on food. This figure will be subtracted from the maximum amount permitted by the USDA in order to determine the allotment you will receive.
In other words, to determine how much you will receive in Maine SNAP benefits, multiply your net monthly income by .30. Then, take that figure and subtract it from the maximum amount permitted for your household size. This is the amount you may expect in monthly benefits.
Alternatively, you may want to use a food stamp calculator to help you estimate how much you may receive in benefits. This is a tool available online. To use it, you simply input our household’s demographics and income information. Then, you will see an estimate of how much you may expect in benefits.
For more information on food stamp benefits, download our free guide.
When do you start receiving SNAP benefits after applying in Maine?
Once you submit your application for Maine food stamps, your application will be processed and you will receive your benefits within 30 days. In some situations, you may be eligible for an expedited processing period. This would entail having little-to-no income at the time of application, in which case your application will be processed in seven days.
Your SNAP benefits will be issued to you on an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card referred to in the state as the Pine Tree Card. You will create a personal identification number (PIN) to use with the card. You will then be able to use this card in the same way you would a debit card. Your Pine Tree Card with SNAP food benefits may be used:
- At stores that have a Quest logo displayed on a door or window.
- At certain farmers markets.
- For the Meals on Wheels Program.
Each month, your card will be reloaded with the appropriate allotment of SNAP benefits.
Last Updated: February 23, 2023