The Virginia Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides monthly benefits that you can use to buy food. This program, which is commonly referred to as food stamps, is meant to supplement your family’s grocery budget. Therefore, this benefit aims to make it easier to afford the food you need for a healthy life. With that in mind, the amount of SNAP benefits you receive is not meant to cover the entire cost of food for the month.
It is generally your responsibility to learn which products you can and cannot buy, as well as where you can shop. Due to the fact that the VA SNAP program allows you to buy many different kinds of foods, eligible items typically do not have special labels. Read below to learn more about using SNAP assistance in Virginia and discover how and where to shop with benefits.
Which food items can you buy using food stamps in Virginia?
Virginia SNAP food stamps can be spent on a wide variety of items. This program allows you to buy staple foods, which are items found in the major food groups such as protein or dairy. Moreover, you are allowed to buy accessory foods, which are things that complement a meal but cannot generally count as a whole meal on their own or be eaten alone. For example, beverages and cooking ingredients are accessory items.
You can use SNAP food benefits to buy items in just about any form. For example, food stamp benefits can be used on fruit that is fresh, frozen, dried or canned. The other types of food that you can buy include:
- Protein items such as meat, eggs, poultry, fish and other seafood.
- Milk, cheese, butter, yogurt and other dairy products.
- Baby food and infant formula.
- Vegetable seeds that you can use to grow produce at home.
- Bread, cereal, pasta and other grains.
- Fruits, vegetables and herbs.
- Snacks such as cookies, chips, nuts or crackers.
- Beverages such as coffee, tea, soda or juice.
- Edible ingredients used for cooking or preserving food, such as flour, spices, pectin or cooking oil.
If you are elderly or have a disability, the VA food stamps program also allows you to spend your benefits on meal delivery services, provided that the organization you use accepts benefit payments. SNAP food benefits can also be spent on special diet foods, such as diabetic foods. Learn more about the types of food you can purchase by downloading our free guide.
When you receive food stamps, it is also important that you learn where you are allowed to spend your benefits. SNAP assistance is issued on a plastic electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card that looks and works like a debit card to buy food. Overall, several grocery stores, convenience stores, supermarkets and farmers’ markets accept EBT cards.
When you plan on using SNAP food stamps, you may need to tell the cashier beforehand that you are using an EBT card. You may or may not need to separate your SNAP-eligible items from other groceries you are purchasing.
Note: Items you buy with SNAP benefits are exempt from sales tax. However, taxes may be due if you use certain types of coupons during your purchase. You should be prepared to pay any sales tax due with cash.
Products You Cannot Buy Using Food Stamps in Virginia
The Virginia SNAP program comes with certain rules that you will want to be aware of. SNAP benefits cannot be spent on every item at participating stores. Furthermore, you are not allowed to shop with your EBT at certain locations.
For example, liquor stores, casinos, cruise ships and similar locations are never authorized to accept EBT card payments. This means that you cannot buy food in these places, even if you found an item that you would be able to buy at a participating store.
While SNAP food benefits can be spent on a wide range of items, there are also certain things that you cannot purchase. Prohibited items include the following:
- Alcohol such as beer, wine or liquor.
- Cigarettes, chewing tobacco and other similar products.
- Food storage containers, dishes or other cookware.
- Pet food, livestock feed and other items not meant for human consumption.
- Any food that is sold hot, such as a meal from the deli counter.
- Any prepared foods that are ready to be eaten in the store.
- Medicines, supplements or vitamins.
- Items meant for gardening, such as soil or fertilizer.
- Cleaning supplies, paper products, plastic wrap, aluminum foil or other similar products.
You also cannot use SNAP benefits to take cash out at an ATM. Furthermore, it is not possible to request cash back with a purchase, even when you are buying approved foods at a participating grocery store. If you return any items you bought with an EBT card, the refund will be issued back to your card rather than being issued in the form of cash.
Lastly, you cannot use Virginia food stamps at a restaurant in most cases. There are very few restaurants that accept EBT card payments for food. In cases where a restaurant does take benefits, it usually only serves elderly, disabled or homeless beneficiaries.
How are food stamp benefits amounts calculated in Virginia?
A food stamp calculator can be a useful tool if you are unsure of your eligibility to receive benefits. In most cases, a SNAP calculator will only give you an idea of whether you will be approved. It will not generally tell you the exact amount of assistance you will receive.
The amount of SNAP assistance you receive is based on things such as your family size and income. The only sure way to tell the amount of benefits you will receive is to submit an application for assistance. Your benefit award letter will tell you the exact amount you are qualified for.
When do you start receiving SNAP benefits after applying in Virginia?
Virginia food stamps are usually issued within 30 days of you submitting an application for benefits. If you have extremely limited resources or income, you might be qualified to get assistance in as little as seven days.
Either way, your SNAP benefits will be available on the same day each month after you start receiving assistance. You will be able to access your new benefits regardless of whether that day falls on a weekend or holiday. Learn more about what you can expect from the SNAP program by downloading our free guide.