Can You Buy Formula With An EBT Card?

In the last year, many of us have been hit with unprecedented financial hardships. If you have applied to receive government benefits for the first time, you may find that knowing which foods you can and can’t buy can be complicated. For instance, can you buy formula with an EBT card? 


If you have SNAP benefits, you can use that program to buy formula, as well as baby food and other eligible items. Read on to learn more about EBT benefits and what you can and can’t buy with your EBT card.



What Is the SNAP Program?


Before we dive into why you can purchase formula with your EBT card, let’s talk about the SNAP program. The Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) was founded in 1933 as part of the Agricultural Adjustment Act. It’s a program designed to help low-income people afford the food they need to survive.


Chances are you’ve heard of the SNAP program before, and if you’re old enough, you may even know it as food stamps. When the program first began, people would receive paper stamps they could exchange for food at the grocery store. However, since many people wound up trading or selling these stamps for other needs, the government shifted to an electronic card system.


How Does It Connect to an EBT Card?


When the government phased out the old paper food stamps, they introduced the EBT card. Your electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card is your ticket to accessing your SNAP benefits. You can use it much like a credit or debit card at the store to purchase needed food items.


Your EBT card will have a certain amount of “stamp money” loaded onto it that you can use for food. Unlike other federal welfare programs, this card does not give you direct cash you can spend on anything you need. Instead, it limits which items you can purchase with this card, and you can only use it to buy food items.


Are There Purchase Limits for Formula?


Because formula is considered a direct source of nutrition for infants, it is one of the items eligible for purchase with an EBT card. However, some items come with limits on how many you can buy each month or in one trip. Are there such buying limits in place for baby formula? 


Luckily, there are no purchase amount limits for formula, so you can get as much as you need. The only limit is the amount of money you have on your EBT card. If possible, it’s a good idea to budget your monthly assistance amount to ensure everyone in your family, including your baby, has food to eat.


Can You Purchase Other Baby Food?


Formula is an important part of the SNAP program eligibility, but what do you do once your baby gets older? They can’t keep drinking formula forever, but they may not yet be ready to move on to solid foods. Will your EBT card work for purchasing pre-made baby food and other transitional foods?


Baby food and other such essentials also fall under the nutrition category of SNAP benefits. You can use your EBT card to purchase jars of baby food, baby cereals, oatmeal, or other such foods. You may also be able to use this card to purchase juice and certain other drinks for small children.


Can You Buy Other Baby Products?


If you’re struggling financially, knowing you can feed your baby with SNAP benefits can be a huge load off. But there are many other expenses associated with raising a child—medical expenses, toys, clothes, and diapers, to name a few. In fact, the average parent spends nearly $1,000 a year on diapers alone.


Unfortunately, these other items do not fall under the nutritional requirements for SNAP benefits. You can’t purchase them using an EBT card without facing serious consequences. But later on, we’ll discuss some ways you may be able to get help buying diapers and other such necessities.


Eligibility for SNAP


Eligibility for SNAP benefits will vary from state to state, so you must check on your particular state’s guidelines. In general, these guidelines are usually based on total household incomes rather than individual incomes. They will also depend largely on how many people, including children, depend on you financially.


To determine your eligibility, a member of your household must contact the SNAP office in your state.


What You Can Purchase With an EBT Card


In general, EBT cards are meant to help you and your family purchase food only, not other necessities. This food does not have to be healthy or meet certain requirements; it must only be intended for your family to consume directly. Processed food, snacks, candy, and sweets are all eligible for EBT card purchases, though they are not the best choice. 


You can also use your EBT card to purchase seeds that will be used to grow food for your family. Starting a garden can be a great way to supplement your food resources, especially if you harvest seeds from the food you grow. Your garden can even help others in your community get the nutrition they need.


EBT Card Limitations


There are a variety of essentials that don’t fall under the SNAP benefits program. For instance, you can’t use your EBT card to buy toilet paper, cleaning supplies, or medicines. You also can’t use your EBT card to buy premade hot foods at stores, such as a burger from the fast-food restaurant in the grocery store.


Unfortunately, SNAP benefits also do not cover pet food; for this program’s purposes, pets are not considered members of your family. And you may not be surprised to learn that alcohol and tobacco aren’t eligible for purchase with your EBT card. If you or someone in your family struggles with an addiction to these substances, there are programs that can help you.


Where You Can Use an EBT Card


EBT cards are accepted at stores in all fifty states and U.S. territories like Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Most standard grocery stores and convenience stores participate in the SNAP program and will accept an EBT card. However, it’s always a good idea to check with a new store to make sure they’ll accept your card before you begin shopping, especially if it’s a small business. 


There are some farmer’s markets that also accept EBT cards. This can be a great way to get your family fresh fruits and vegetables from local sources without having to turn to your local big-box retailer. You may also be able to get seeds and gardening advice from your local farmer’s market vendors, so be sure to check for when and where they set up. 


Cautions When Using an EBT Card


When you’re shopping, it’s natural to throw all your items such as food and other necessities into the basket together and then put them on the conveyor belt without thinking. However, your EBT card will not distinguish which items in your cart are food and which aren’t, and there are very steep penalties for buying unapproved items with your EBT money. 


As you’re shopping, make sure you separate food items from non-food items. You’ll need to check out your food items first using your EBT card before finishing the transaction with your other items. Failing to do so could lose you your SNAP benefits for three months after the first offense, so be careful!


Aid for Diapers and Baby Products


So what do you do if you have to buy diapers, but you can barely afford to keep a roof over your baby’s head, and you rely on SNAP benefits to keep them fed? If your child is enrolled in an Early Head Start or Head Start program, they should receive diapers while at the program. If you receive TANF benefits, you can also use that money to purchase diapers.


Some community programs work to provide diapers and other such necessities for families in need. There is also a bill in Congress that would help provide diapers to families all across the country. Talk to your local representatives about whether such a program is available in your community, and ask your national representatives to vote yes on HR1846.


Answer, “Can You Buy Formula with an EBT Card?”


Trying to keep your family fed can be a challenge, especially in times like this. Luckily, the answer to the question, “Can you buy formula with an EBT card?” is yes. Formula and other food products that will provide nutrition for your children are eligible for the program. 


If you qualify for SNAP benefits, you may also qualify for free Lifeline phone serviceApply now and start getting the help you need to stay connected.


If you’re looking for more information on how to get resources for your baby on a tight budget, click here.