Learn About SNAP Benefits in South Carolina
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly referred to as food stamps in South Carolina, is designed to help low-income families afford groceries on a monthly basis. The program is administered at the state level by the Department of Social Services (DSS), and overseen nationally by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Once you are approved for SNAP benefits, it is important to understand how you may utilize these funds. Your benefits will be delivered to you on an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card that may be used the same way as you would use a debit card at the cash register. In general, most food items are eligible for purchase, unless they have certain disqualifying characteristics such as alcohol content. Read on for more information about how you can use your food stamps in South Carolina.
Which food items can you buy using food stamps in South Carolina?
The South Carolina SNAP program is designed to help families afford healthy meals on a consistent basis. Therefore, you may use your benefits to buy all staple food items, as well as foods that make up the majority of a healthy diet. Staple foods include:
- Meat, poultry and dairy
- Fruits and vegetables
- Bread and cereal
Because they are considered essential to a healthy diet, there are very few restrictions on purchasing staple food items. As such, you may purchase these items fresh, packaged or in frozen form using your food stamp benefits.
In addition to staple food items, you may use SNAP food stamps in SC to purchase accessory food items. Accessory items include items that may not be considered part of a healthy diet, including desserts, snacks and sodas.
However, accessory foods may also include items that supplement and complement meals. For example, each of the following are considered accessory food items and, therefore, are eligible for purchase with SNAP food stamps:
- Juices and other nonalcoholic beverages
Finally, you may use your SNAP benefits to purchase plants or seeds that will provide food for the household. For example, a tomato plant that will be kept at home and harvested for its fruit is a valid purchase under the food stamps program.
Products You Cannot Buy Using Food Stamps in South Carolina
There are certain products that you are not authorized to buy under the SNAP program in South Carolina. The largest category of ineligible items is nonfood items. Even though this may seem obvious, many nonfood items are sold alongside food in many grocery or convenience stores. Examples of nonfood items that you may not purchase include:
- Pet food
- Hygiene products
- Cosmetic products
- Tobacco products
Additionally, there are also food items that you may not purchase with SNAP assistance. These items include:
- Live animals
- Medicine, vitamins or supplements
- Hot or prepared food
You may find that some items that are considered supplements are easily mistaken as food items. For example, certain energy drinks are considered supplements, while others are not. In order to make the distinction while you are in the store, you should look at the product label.
As a general rule, if the product has a Supplement Facts label, you will not be able to buy it with food stamps. Alternatively, if the product has a Nutrition Facts label, you will be able to purchase it using your SNAP benefits.
Additionally, you may not purchase food that is intended for immediate consumption. This includes food at a restaurant, but also includes hot or prepared food at a grocery or convenience store. For example, many groceries sell hot rotisserie chickens that are ready to consume at the point of purchase. You would not be able to purchase this item with your food stamp benefits. To help you identify items that may be ineligible under this rule, look for labels like “hot-and-ready” and “grab-and-go.”
For more information on what you can and cannot purchase with food stamp benefits, download our free guide.
How are food stamps benefits amounts calculated in South Carolina?
The amount of South Carolina food stamps benefits you receive will depend on your household size and income level. The USDA has pre-determined maximum SNAP allotments for differing household sizes. The more individuals in a household, the larger the maximum allotment will be.
You may consider using a food stamp calculator in order to estimate how much you will receive in benefits. This tool is free and available online. To use it, you will need to input information about your household demographics and income. The tool will then estimate how much you may expect in SNAP benefits. For more information on food stamp benefits, download our free guide.
When do you start receiving SNAP benefits after applying in South Carolina?
Your South Carolina SNAP benefits application will typically be processed within 30 days of its receipt. After your application is approved, you will begin receiving benefits. However, if you meet certain eligibility requirements, you may qualify for expedited processing.
To have your application processed sooner, you must have little to no income when you apply. In general, a household must make no more than $150 a week to qualify for expedited processing. In this case, the application would be processed in seven days.
Regardless of your processing period, once your application is approved, you will receive benefits from the date of your original application. Moreover, your food stamp benefits will be delivered on an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card on a monthly basis. You may use this card in the same way you would use a debit card at a cash register.