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Food Stamps Have Limitations for Shoppers

A Happy Shopper

Millions of low-income Americans each year get help with one of life’s basic necessities --- food. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly the federal Food Stamp Program, provides this help for those who meet certain income requirements.
But SNAP does not provide assistance for other everyday needs, many of which are essential to the lives of participants in St. Benedict Education Center’s EARN program. “With food stamps, we can only buy food that has a label with nutritional facts, or fresh produce,” said a 24-year-old woman who is a participant in the EARN program. “That means we can’t buy hot or ready-to-eat prepared foods, like a rotisserie chicken,” she said.
Items that cannot be purchased with food stamps include basic essentials such as toilet paper, paper towels, diapers, soaps, laundry detergent, toothpaste, shampoo and other personal care products, including over-the-counter medicines.
“I need vitamins and medicines, and I can’t get those kinds of things with food stamps,” said another 24-year-old woman who is in the program.  She also receives cash assistance, or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), but she said the amount of assistance from SNAP depends on family size. She said she watches her budget closely to stretch the amount she receives each month and generally shops at discount grocery stores.
Both women said they are happy with the selection of items they can purchase with their earned “Benny Bucks” at SBEC’s Treasures & Such store. The store stocks many products on its shelves and tables that cannot be purchased with food stamps.