Gingerbread houses may seem like a favorite Christmas tradition for children, but not for people on food stamps. The USDA has banned the use of foods stamps to purchase gingerbread houses because they aren’t considered “healthy” food.
Food Stamps and The Quest to Buy Gingerbread Houses
The food stamp program is a major part of the federal budget, but it’s worth it.
- By Dean Baker
From The Washington Post: “The House Agriculture Committee voted down the reauthorization of child nutrition programs, essentially ending a program that helps feed millions of low-income children.”
This is a big deal because this program, which provides free lunches and breakfasts in schools to low-income kids, is one of the most important anti-poverty programs we have. In fact, as I wrote earlier this year, it could be one of the most effective ways to reduce poverty among children. It’s also a very popular program with voters who want their kids to get fed without having them go hungry at school.
But it’s not just Democrats who want this program continued — Republicans too have been supportive. When there was an effort to cut funding for school lunch programs during the sequester last year, Republicans fought back, insisting that they wouldn’t support any cuts to this program because it helps poor kids eat better and does no harm to anyone else.
Who Qualifies and How Do You Apply?
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the newest name for food stamps. It’s a federal program that helps low-income families buy food.
You can apply if you’re 18 years old or older, have income below certain limits, and live in one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam or Puerto Rico. If you meet these requirements, you’ll be eligible to receive benefits on a monthly basis.
The amount of money that you receive depends on your household size and net monthly income (total income minus deductions). The maximum benefit amount is $192 per month per household.
You can find out more about SNAP by visiting its website or calling 1-800-221-5689 (TTY/TDD: 1-866-888-8341).
What Can You Buy with EBT Cards?
The answer is yes and no. You can buy sweets and treats with your Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card, but only if they are considered “essential” items. There are some limitations to what food stamps can be used for, so you may not be able to get everything you want.
- What can you buy with EBT cards?
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, provides benefits that can be used to purchase groceries. In most states, recipients of SNAP benefits use a debit card called an EBT card to purchase the items they need at a grocery store or farmer’s market. The program allows recipients up to $200 worth of benefits per month (in most states).
SNAP benefits are only supposed to be used on food products such as meat, fruits and vegetables, breads, and cereals. However, there have been reports of people using their EBT cards at restaurants and liquor stores in recent years because they don’t understand how the program works or because they don’t want to pay cash for something non-essential like alcohol or cigarettes.
Is Gingerbread Considered a Staple Food?
No. The USDA specifies that staple foods include breads, grains, fruits and vegetables. Gingerbread houses are not included in the list of accepted foods.
Can you use food stamps to buy gingerbread houses?
No. You can’t use your SNAP benefits to purchase gingerbread houses or any other non-food items. According to the USDA, “purchases with SNAP EBT cards are limited to eligible foods only.”
What if I buy a Christmas tree with food stamps?
If you’re using SNAP benefits to buy a Christmas tree, it must be a live one — not an artificial one — as part of your household’s regular diet. Homeowners can also use their SNAP benefits for landscaping plants and seeds, which may include trees, shrubs and flowers for decoration or landscaping purposes if they’re used to produce food for the household.
Other Ways to Financially Stretch Your Food Budget
A lot of people are looking for ways to stretch their food budgets in these tough economic times. It’s not easy, but if you’re creative, you can find ways to make it work. Here are some of the ideas we’ve found that help our readers cut costs:
Buy cheaper cuts of meat. You can still make your favorite recipes by just buying cheaper cuts of meat. For example, a stew or soup is best made with cheaper cuts like beef chuck or lamb shoulder instead of steaks and tenderloin because they’re more flavorful and require longer cooking times. This makes them perfect for slow cookers or crock pots!
Cook extra meals at once and freeze them. You might be surprised at how much money you can save by cooking double batches of your favorite dishes and freezing half for another meal later on down the road! This is especially handy if you have a busy schedule — just pull out a frozen meal from the freezer whenever you need it!
The important thing to remember is that food stamps aren’t enough to cover a full grocery list. It was only intended as a supplement to help with the food costs of your regular monthly bill. If you can’t afford more, then just focus on getting some more food stamps. Talk to the manager and see if there are any programs in place for you to apply for more benefits.