SNAP basics

SNAP basics

Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program – SNAP – benefits are provided through an electronic card system, much like a debit card.

They can be used to buy most food or food products, including fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables at farmers' markets across Illinois.

Other foods that SNAP benefits can buy include:

  • Breads and cereals
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Meat, fish and poultry
  • Dairy products.

SNAP benefits can also buy seeds and plants that produce food for a household.

SNAP benefits cannot buy:

  • Beer, wine, liquor or tobacco products
  • Vitamins and medicines
  • Food that will be eaten in the store
  • Hot foods
  • Pet foods
  • Household supplies such as cleaning supplies and soap
  • Paper products.

Because SNAP benefits are used to buy any item that is a food or food product for home consumption, SNAP benefits can also be used on:

  • Soft drinks, candy, cookies, snack crackers and ice cream
  • Seafood, steak and bakery cakes

To restrict or limit the types of food eligible for purchase would require an act of Congress. Further, Congress has determined that defining food as luxury or non-nutritious would be too much of a burden and too costly.

Source: USDA

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