The SNAP program has been around since the 1970s and is designed to help low-income individuals and families meet their food needs. Participants in the program get an EBT card, once known as “food stamps,” which can be used like a debit card for buying food.
Still, there are restrictions on what SNAP recipients can and cannot buy. Are vitamin supplements covered? In this article, we’ll answer this question and more.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a federally funded program that helps low-income families with their food needs. It’s operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is available to those below a certain income threshold, which is determined on a state-by-state basis.
If you’re on this program, SNAP will provide a monthly dollar amount on an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card. Each month, your benefits get deposited right into your EBT account, and you can use your EBT card to buy food from authorized stores. When people refer to “food stamps,” they’re typically referring to EBT cards.
You can use an EBT card for purchasing food for the household, including:
No, vitamins aren’t covered by SNAP; you can’t buy vitamins with an EBT card. If the item you’re looking at has a Supplement Facts label, it’s a supplement, and is therefore ineligible. Some other items you can’t purchase with SNAP benefits include:
SNAP isn’t the only food and nutrition program available, though. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), for example, gives federal grants to states for the provision of supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition for low-income women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or postpartum but not breastfeeding, as well as infants and children up to 5 years old. The WIC program does offer nutritional supplement formulas as needed, including nutritional shakes, to address nutrient gaps and deficiencies.
Moreover, some retailers accept EBT cards as a form of payment, in which case you could use your cash EBT benefits to purchase vitamins. Unfortunately this is not an option available for food EBT benefits.
While the SNAP program has undoubtedly supported a great many families, there are still too many Americans, particularly those on lower-income levels, who experience nutritional deficiencies. Vitamin supplements, while no substitute for a nutrient-rich diet, can play a big role in bridging these nutrient gaps. So, shouldn’t SNAP help Americans get access to them?
For Americans on SNAP who could benefit from multivitamin-mineral supplements, there may well be some hope on the horizon.
The Council for Responsible Nutrition – the leading trade association for dietary supplement and functional food industry – has been advocating for expanded access to vitamins and supplements through the SNAP program. Other advocates, including health care professionals, have also been pushing for this change. This could be a game-changing reform for the millions of low-income Americans who struggle with nutrient deficiencies. Multivitamin-minerals are a great tool to fill gaps of what’s missing in the average diet.
When people refer to “food stamps,” they are generally talking about the SNAP program and EBT cards.
SNAP is a federally funded program administered by the states, and it helps low-income families purchase food through benefits loaded onto EBT cards. SNAP benefits don’t cover everything, though; there are restrictions on what people can and cannot buy. As of now, vitamins aren’t eligible for purchase with food benefits on an EBT card. Some advocates are working to change this, considering the usefulness of vitamins in addressing nutrient gaps.