The Minnesota Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides benefits to low-income families and individuals who need help buying food. This benefit, also known as food stamps, helps supplement a household’s grocery budget. With SNAP benefits, it is easier to buy food each month that can be cooked and eaten at home.
If you participate in the SNAP program, there are many different items you can buy and places you can shop. Learning where you can and cannot spend your benefits will help you plan ahead and avoid any confusion at the store. Below, learn more about using benefits and discover how your amount of assistance is determined.
Note: SNAP assistance is similar to the Minnesota Food Assistance Program (MFAP). The MFAP benefit is available for people who meet the age requirements and are ineligible for SNAP due to their citizenship status. Although the eligibility requirements for these programs are different, the benefits are the same.
Which food items can you buy using food stamps in Minnesota?
When you are approved for SNAP food stamps, you will receive an electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card. This card can be used to buy a wide variety of items at participating stores. Approved items usually fall into the category of staple foods or accessory foods.
A staple item is something that makes up the majority of your diet, and can often count as a meal on its own. Accessory foods, on the other hand, cannot usually be eaten alone or do not count as a full meal. Examples of foods you can buy include:
- Meat, fish, eggs and other proteins.
- Milk, cheese, infant formula and other dairy products.
- Soy milk, tofu and other plant-based items.
- Any type of fruit or vegetable, including fresh, frozen or canned varieties.
- Bread, cereal, pasta and other grains.
- Chips, cookies, candy and various other snack foods.
- Beverages such as coffee, tea, soda or juice.
- Flour, sugar, spices, seasonings and other cooking ingredients.
- Condiments such as ketchup, mustard or barbeque sauce.
When spending SNAP food benefits, it also helps to learn which stores accept benefits. Minnesota food stamp benefits are accepted at many different places, including grocery stores, superstores, convenience stores and some farmers’ markets. In most cases, a store will display an EBT or QUEST logo in the window telling you that benefits are accepted that location.
The MN food stamps program allows you to shop at approved stores in any state. This means you can shop in a neighboring state if you live on the border or use your benefits when traveling elsewhere in the country. You are allowed to use your benefits out-of-state because each state uses the same system to process benefits. If you plan on using your card in different states, keep in mind that the specific rules may vary.
In Minnesota, EBT cards are also accepted at authorized Meals on Wheels sites as well as some congregate dining settings. Learn more about where you can shop and what you can buy in our free guide.
Products You Cannot Buy Using Food Stamps in Minnesota
MN food stamps come with certain limitations as well. There are places where you cannot spend your benefits as well as items that you are not allowed to buy. First, benefits can never be spent in locations such as casinos, cruise ships or liquor stores. This means you cannot buy food in one of these places even if you were to find an eligible item.
Additionally, SNAP foods stamps cannot be used in restaurants in most cases. Restaurants that are allowed to take SNAP benefits usually are only permitted to serve participants who are elderly, disabled or homeless.
While you can use food stamps on a wide range of items, there are certain things that you are not allowed to buy. Even at approved grocery stores and supermarkets, you cannot spend your benefits on the following things:
- Any type of alcohol, including beer, wine or liquor
- Tobacco products such as cigarettes or chewing tobacco
- Vitamins, supplements and medications
- Non-food items like paper products, cleaning supplies, cookware or household goods
While most types of food are allowed, it is important to understand that you cannot buy hot or ready-to-eat items. For example, sandwiches, deli meals, cheese trays or hot pizzas cannot be purchased with your benefits. However, you could buy a frozen pizza or ingredients for making a sandwich at home. Understanding these rules will help you avoid confusion when shopping at the store.
Note: SNAP benefits cannot be taken out as cash. If you receive more than one type of benefit on your EBT card, keep in mind that other types of benefits may be eligible for cash withdrawals. Food stamps cannot be used in this way. Furthermore, you cannot receive cash back with a purchase when using SNAP at the register.
For more information about prohibited items, download our free guide today.
How are food stamp benefits amounts calculated in Minnesota?
The amount of SNAP assistance you receive is based on several different factors. Most importantly, your household size and income will determine the amount you get each month. Keep in mind that changes to your situation might affect the amount you are eligible to receive in the future.
Using a food stamp calculator can help you determine if you are eligible for assistance. In most cases, a SNAP calculator cannot tell you the exact amount that you will receive. The best way to determine your benefit level is to submit an application for assistance. Your benefit award letter will tell you how much you can get if you are approved.
When do you start receiving SNAP benefits after applying in Minnesota?
MN SNAP benefits may start anywhere from five days to one month after you apply. In emergency situations, your application will be approved within five working days so that you do not experience a food shortage. Under normal circumstances, your benefits may take up to one month to begin.
Once you are awarded food stamps, your benefits will be available on the same day each month. Benefits are added to your EBT card on the same day regardless of whether it is a weekend or holiday. This makes it easier for you to plan ahead for shopping trips.