Posted on Wednesday, April 25th, 2012 at 8:12 am
Federal Food assistance programs, such as WIC or SNAP, and state food assistance programs, such as CalFresh, are designed to help low-income people to provide food and good nutrition for themselves and their families. Many of these programs were once called Food Stamps. There is some confusion about how food assistance programs work with coupons. Here is some information that should help clear things up.
The first thing to realize is that food assistance programs no longer use actual food stamps. Some of them may send people their benefits in the form of special coupons. Most of these programs have updated they way that people receive their benefits to something much more convenient. If you become eligible for a food assistance program today, it is very likely that your benefits will be distributed via an electronic debit card.
There has been some confusion about if people who are using what was once called Food Stamps are allowed to use grocery coupons. The short answer is yes, (but there are some limitations). A lot of people will find that when they first become eligible for a food assistance program, they are encouraged to use as many coupons as possible, in order to help them to save money.
The SNAP program is the new name for the federal Food Stamps program. The WIC program is another federal food assistance program. Each state will have their own programs, that may go by different names. The exact type of foods that you can use your food assistance benefits on may vary by state. For the federal programs, there are specific guidelines.
You can use SNAP benefits to buy breads and cereals, fruits and vegetables, meats, fish, poultry, and dairy products. You can also use your benefits to purchase soft drinks, candy, cookies, snack crackers and ice cream. Seafood, steak, and bakery cakes are also permitted. Energy drinks that have a nutrition facts label are also okay. Pumpkins are allowed. It is perfectly acceptable to use coupons for those types of groceries along with your food assistance program benefits.
People who use food stamps or food assistance benefits are not supposed to be charged tax for grocery purchases. However, it seems that several stores are charging people tax on the items that they used a coupon on. This is due to a quirk with the registers. They will automatically charge tax on couponed items. The stores then require the shopper to pay the tax in cash. Check with a store manager before you shop, to see if that store charges tax on coupons used with food stamps. Not all of them will.