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Learn About SNAP Benefits in New York

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which is commonly referred to as food stamps, is a national program designed to help low-income families afford groceries on a monthly basis. Despite the fact that this is a federal program, it is administered on a local level. Once you are approved for SNAP benefits in New York, you will be issued an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card to purchase authorized food items. You may use this card in the same way that you would use a debit card.

The amount of food stamp benefits you receive will depend on your household’s income and size and other eligibility requirements of the program. Generally, the state Department of Social Services (DSS) will use the guidelines determined by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) when determining the total amount of your benefits. As such, it is important to remember that you will only be permitted to purchase certain items using your SNAP food benefits. Read on for more information about food stamp benefits.

Which food items can you buy using food stamps in New York?

New York SNAP benefits may be used to purchase a variety of food items, namely staple and accessory foods. Staple foods are those that make up the majority of a healthy diet, including:

  • Produce, such as fruits and vegetables
  • Meat, poultry and fish
  • Bread and cereal
  • Dairy products

Because the SNAP program is designed to help individuals and families access healthy foods, all staple food items are eligible for purchase under the program. That includes fresh items as well as items that are frozen or pre-packaged.

Moreover, you may purchase accessory food items with your SNAP benefits as well. Accessory food items cover an array of categories including certain snacks and desserts, despite the fact that these items are typically considered “junk” food.

Accessory foods also include items that supplement or complement meals, such as cooking ingredients like oils and flours, seasonings, side dishes and non-alcoholic beverages. Generally, all accessory foods are eligible for purchase so long as they do not have any disqualifying qualities (such as alcoholic content).

Furthermore, you may also purchase plants or seeds using your SNAP food benefits as long as they are going to be used to grow food for the household. For example, buying tomato seeds in order to grow a tomato plant is acceptable under the program. For more information about what you may buy with food stamps, download our free guide now.

Products You Cannot Buy Using Food Stamps in New York

There are certain items that you may not purchase using food stamps in New York. As a general rule, any non-food item is prohibited under the program, even if the item is one that is typically sold at grocery stores. Such items include but are not limited to:

  • Pet food
  • Household supplies
  • Cosmetics
  • Hygiene products

Non-food items are not the only products ineligible for purchase under the program. You are also prohibited from purchasing:

  • Alcohol and tobacco products
  • Prepared food
  • Hot food
  • Live animals
  • Supplements, vitamins and medicines

The SNAP program does not allow the purchasing of items that are designed to be consumed in the store. This generally includes items that are sold in restaurants, but may also include items sold in traditional grocery markets. You may identify prepared or hot food by certain labels such as “hot-and-ready” or “grab-and-go.”

As an example, some grocers sell rotisserie chickens that are ready for consumption at the point of purchase. Keep in mind that this item would be ineligible for purchase under the SNAP guidelines.

Additionally, you may want to take careful consideration to ensure that you do not purchase items that are supplements or vitamins, as they are not covered by your food stamps benefits. Even though these items may seem obvious, certain products may be mistaken for food items. For instance, herbal teas are actually considered supplements and, therefore, may not be purchased with SNAP funds.

The easiest way to identify the difference between what may be considered a supplement or a food item is to look at the product label. If the product has a Nutrition Facts label, then it is considered a food item and is likely eligible for purchase under the NY food stamps program. However, if the item has a Supplement Facts label, it is likely ineligible for purchase.

Furthermore, you are generally prohibited from purchasing live animals using your SNAP food benefits. However, there are some exceptions to this rule, such as shellfish that will be taken from the tank and animals that will be slaughtered before they are picked up from the store.

How are food stamps benefits amounts calculated in New York?

The amount of benefits you will receive under the SNAP program will depend on your household’s size and gross monthly income. The USDA has preset maximum SNAP allotments according to the household’s size. You will not be allowed to receive more than the maximum allotment. However, you may receive less.

As a SNAP recipient, you are expected to spend about 30 percent of your monthly income on food. To determine the dollar amount you will receive in food stamps benefits, simply multiply your monthly income by 0.3. Then, subtract that figure from the maximum allotment outlined by the USDA.

In order to help you determine how much you may receive in SNAP benefits, you may want to consider using a food stamp calculator. This tool is available online. To use it, you will simply need to input personal details such as your income.

Then, the calculator will use your information to generate an estimate of how much you should expect in SNAP food stamps. For more information on how food stamps may be able to help you, download our free guide.

When do you start receiving SNAP benefits after applying in New York?

The SNAP application process is typically complete within 30 days after the agency receives the request. Then, you will receive your SNAP benefits starting from the date when you applied. In some cases, you may be able to receive an expedited processing period in order to receive your benefits sooner, particularly if you have little to no money. For instance, if you make less than $150 a month, you may be eligible for expedited processing.

Last Updated: September 26, 2022