What can I buy with SNAP benefits and where can I shop?

You can buy any edible food except hot foods prepared for eating immediately. You cannot use SNAP in restaurants. You can also buy seeds and plants to grow food. You cannot buy non-food items such as alcohol, pet food, vitamins, or grooming products. 106 C.M.R. § 360.100. You do not need to have a stove or other cooking facilities to get SNAP benefits.

You may be able to use your SNAP benefits to make a voluntary payment for prepared meals at certain locations like domestic violence shelters and homeless shelters, congregate meal sites for elders or home-delivered meals for seniors. These donations are voluntary and may depends on whether the agency serving the meals is an approved EBT vendor. 106 C.M.R. § 360.120.

SNAP is a federal program that operates in every state. You are allowed to use your EBT card to purchase food out-of-state at grocers and farmers markets that participate in the SNAP EBT program. And out of state SNAP participants can shop in Massachusetts. However, if you move out of Massachusetts, you must advise DTA that you have moved. Your SNAP case will be closed, but you can reapply in the new state and qualify if you are eligible. See If I forget to use my EBT card for a while, does my case close? for more details about DTA policy and using your EBT card when you are out of state.

See DTA information on how to use your EBT Card. And USDA has helpful information on what you can buy with SNAP benefits.

Advocacy Reminder

Additional Policy Guidance on EBT Accounts
Additional Policy Guidance on EBT Accounts
  • DTA announces policy to track out-of-state usage of EBT benefits. Use of EBT benefits “out of region” (outside New England states and NY, which are considered “in region” states) for 75 days or more  may trigger request for verification of residence. DTA says they will close the case  if proof not received by day 90. (This may not be authorized).  If recipient makes EBT purchase inside MA, Ops Memo says monitoring will stop until next out-of-state purchase. Fraud unit can request verification of address for in-region cases. Ops Memo 2013-34 (July 26, 2013).

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Produced by Patricia Baker, Victoria Negus, Laura Gallant, Deborah Harris and Rochelle Hahn, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Last Updated January 2014

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