The Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly referred to as food stamps, helps low-income Americans afford groceries every month. In Maryland, food stamps is referred to as the Food Assistance Program.
When you are approved for assistance, you will receive your SNAP benefits on an electronic balance transfer (EBT) card. This card may be used in the same way as a debit card when you are checking out at the cash register. Each month, your card will be reloaded with benefits for you to use accordingly. The amount of benefits you receive will depend on your household size and income level.
Although there are no rules pertaining to how much you must purchase each week using your benefits, there are rules and guidelines set by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) regarding what types of products you may purchase using your benefits. It is important to understand and be able to recognize what items are eligible for purchase under the program. Read on for more information about SNAP benefits in Maryland and how to use them.
Which food items can you buy using food stamps in Maryland?
SNAP is designed to help families access affordable healthy meals on a monthly basis. Therefore, you may use your food stamps to buy all staple foods, or foods that make up the majority of a healthy diet. Staple foods include:
- Meat, poultry and fish.
- Dairy products.
- Bread and cereal.
You may think that you need to purchase fresh staple foods in order to purchase them with SNAP food stamps. However, you may purchase staple food items in packaged or frozen forms using your benefits.
The other category of items you may purchase using your food stamp benefits are accessory food items. Accessory food items may include foods that are not considered “healthy,” such as snack or dessert food. However, an accessory food may also include products that complement or supplement meals. Examples of accessory foods are:
- Non-alcoholic beverages, including soda.
- Cooking ingredients, such as oils or flours.
Finally, you may use your MD SNAP benefits to purchase seeds and plants that may be used to grow food for the family. For example, a tomato plant that will be kept at your place of residence and harvested is eligible for purchase.
Products You Cannot Buy Using Food Stamps in Maryland
There are some items that are not eligible for purchase using your SNAP food stamps in Maryland. Primarily, you mat not use your SNAP benefits to purchase any nonfood item. Although this rule may seem obvious, keep in mind that many nonfood items are sold within grocery stores. Examples of these items include:
- Pet foods.
- Paper products.
- Household supplies.
In addition to non-food items, there are certain consumable products that are also not eligible for purchase under the SNAP program. These items include:
- Prepared or hot foods.
- Live animals.
- Medicines and vitamins.
- Alcohol and tobacco products.
SNAP food benefits are not to be used to purchase foods for immediate consumption. Therefore, you may not purchase food from a restaurant with your benefits. This category also includes prepared or hot foods that you can find in grocery stores.
For example, many grocers sell rotisserie chickens that are intended for consumption at the time of purchase. However, this may not be purchased with program benefits. To help you identify other products that may be prohibited from SNAP purchase, look for labels such as “hot-and-ready” and “grab-and-go.”
Additionally, be aware that products that may seem eligible may actually be considered supplements. You may not purchase supplements under the food stamps program. For example, you may purchase gummy fruit snacks with your SNAP benefits, but not gummy vitamins.
The easiest way to determine whether or not a product is a supplement is to look at the product label. If the label is a Supplement Facts label, it is not eligible for purchase. However, if the label Is a Nutrition Facts label, the product likely is eligible for purchase.
For more information on what you can and cannot buy with food stamps, download our free guide.
How are food stamps benefits amounts calculated in Maryland?
MD food stamps are calculated based on your household size and income level. The USDA has established maximum allotments for food stamp benefits based on different household sizes. According to SNAP regulations, a household is also expected to contribute at least 30 percent of its monthly income toward food.
To calculate the amount of SNAP benefits you are entitled to, follow these steps:
- Multiply your net monthly income by .3.
- Subtract that figure from the maximum SNAP allotment for your household size.
Alternatively, you may choose to use a food stamp calculator. This tool is available online and can estimate how much you may expect in food stamp benefits. To use it, you will need to input your household demographic information as well as information about your income and expenses.
Download our free guide to learn more about the benefits of SNAP assistance.
When do you start receiving SNAP benefits after applying in Maryland?
After you submit your food stamps application, your application will be processed in no more than 30 days. After the processing is complete and you are approved for the program, you will receive benefits from the date at which you originally applied.
In some cases, you may be entitled to an expedited processing period. Specifically, if your household has little-to-no income, then you may have your application processed in 7 days. An example of having little-to-no income would include having less than $150 in gross monthly income.
Regardless of what processing period you have, your SNAP benefits will be issued to you on an electronic balance transfer (EBT) card. This card will be reloaded with your benefits on a monthly basis. You will use the EBT at the cash register in the same way that you would use a debit or a credit card.