If you qualify for food stamps in West Virginia, you will no longer receive paper vouchers. Instead, you will receive an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card, which is nicknamed the mountain state card. This card looks and works like a debit card, which makes it much easier to use at authorized grocery stores and farmers’ markets. In order to identify whether a store participates in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), you may look for a sign posted at the storefront that explains which federal benefits are accepted there.
It is important to understand how to use your SNAP benefits in WV, as you may only purchase approved food items from authorized stores. Both the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the state Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) strictly enforce these rules and guidelines. Therefore, understanding them will help you maintain your eligibility.
Which food items can you buy using food stamps in West Virginia?
When you begin to receive benefits from the SNAP program in West Virginia, your food budget will expand, making it much easier for you to feed yourself and your household. Benefits may also make healthy foods more accessible to you.
While the program guidelines encourage healthy eating, you are not limited to purchasing only healthy foods. As an example, you may buy pre-packaged items such as pretzels, granola, chips, cookies or popcorn. Your mountain state card, which originally came in the form of SNAP food stamps, may be used to buy a wide variety of items, including:
- Fruits and vegetables.
- Meat, poultry and fish.
- Meat substitutes, such as tofu or vegetable burgers.
- Dairy products.
- Grains and cereals, such as rice, oats and barley.
- Snack foods.
- Non-alcoholic beverages.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program guidelines split food into two main categories: staple foods and accessory foods. These categories help the DHHR and food sellers determine which foods may be purchased with an EBT card. They may also help you learn which foods make up a healthy diet.
Staple foods include fruits, vegetables, meat, meat substitutes, dairy products and grains. Accessory foods include:
- Bakery items, such as cakes, pies and doughnuts.
- Condiments, such as mustard, ketchup, vinegar, mayonnaise, hot sauce, nut butter, jam and honey.
- Baking ingredients, such as flour, baking soda, baking powder, cocoa powder and sugar.
- Cooking ingredients, such as vegetable oil, shortening, seasonings and spices.
Products You Cannot Buy Using Food Stamps in West Virginia
While it may seem as though you can use your WV SNAP assistance to purchase virtually any product, there are actually certain items that you are not allowed to buy with these funds. In general, your EBT card may not work if you try to use it at an un-authorized business.
Understanding which items are prohibited will make it easier to shop with your benefits in grocery stores. It will also lower the chance that you will have a problem checking out. Overall, your mountain state card may not be used to purchase:
- Alcohol, such as beer, wine and liquor
- Tobacco, cigarettes and vape products
- Vitamins, medicines and supplements
- Live animals
- Prepared foods
- Hot foods
- Pet foods
- Paper products
- Cleaning supplies
While these guidelines for SNAP food benefits are strictly enforced, there are some exceptions. For example, you may buy live shellfish from a grocery store or authorized seafood market, as long as it is removed from the water and you plan to cook and consume it at home. You may also use an EBT card to buy a live animal from a meat market as long as it is slaughtered before you pick it up.
The prepared foods rule also has certain exceptions. According to the accessory food guidelines, for instance, you may buy bakery items and pre-packaged snack foods. You are also allowed to buy deli meats from behind a counter, even if prohibited items are being sold behind the same counter.
According to the food stamps program, this is because these foods are not meant to be eaten in the store. Foods that may be eaten in a store, such as hot soup, fresh sandwiches and salad bar items are considered restaurant foods.
If you are trying to determine whether a food is acceptable or prohibited under program guidelines, first check to see if it fits the description of a staple food or accessory food. Then, check to see if it has a nutrition label. Items with supplement labels may not be purchased with a card. Items that are considered supplements include:
- Gummy bear vitamins
- Whey protein powder
- Certain teas
For a comprehensive explanation of items that are prohibited under the SNAP rules, download our guide.
How are food stamps benefits amounts calculated in West Virginia?
You may use a food stamp calculator to help you learn how much money you may get in benefits each month. A calculator, or benefit estimator, will use the information you provide to give you a prediction.
Remember that some of these estimators are not authorized by the DHHR and may not show you the amount that you will receive. Generally, an estimator will ask you about:
- Your monthly gross income.
- The size of your household.
- Your age and the age of each household member.
- Your monthly rent or mortgage.
- Your utility bills.
Note: A benefits estimator is not the same as a SNAP calculator, though the names are similar. A SNAP calculator may help you determine your eligibility for the program.
You may also gain an idea of your benefit allotment by following the Federal Nutrition Service (FNS) guidelines. This is because the amount to which you are entitled will mainly depend on your income and the number of people in your household.
Each household size has a different maximum allotment. For instance, a three-person household has a maximum benefit of $505.
When do you start receiving SNAP benefits after applying in West Virginia?
If you are approved for the food stamps program after applying, you may receive a notice in the mail that explains when you will get your EBT card and when your benefits will be deposited into your account. After your first deposit, your subsequent allotments will always be deposited into your account on the same day every month.
If your EBT card is being mailed to you, it may take between two and seven days for you to receive it. To learn more about SNAP benefits and what they may be used for, download our free guide.