Food Stamps Guide: Can You Buy Protein Powder with EBT?

can you buy protein powder with ebt

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To ensure that no citizen goes without food, the American government has been providing low-income households with money to buy food through the electronic benefits transfer (EBT) program, which was initially referred to as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or the food stamps.

This program allows you to buy a wide range of basic food items so that you can achieve your daily nutritional needs. But can you buy protein powder with EBT? Read on to find out.

What Is EBT?


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As mentioned above, Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) is a government-sponsored initiative to enable people who qualify for supplemental nutritional assistance to purchase food from authorized retail stores. Those who qualify get SNAP EBT cards that are continuously topped up by the government to reimburse the stores for the food items purchased.

This program is available in all fifty states, as well as the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. It has been the only method of issuing supplemental nutrition assistance in the United States. An EBT card looks and works the same as a credit or debit card. They’re designed to help minimize the stigma of getting nutrition assistance associated with traditional food stamps.

How Does EBT System Work?

System Work

If you want to join the EBT program, you should start by applying for SNAP benefits through the available state coordinator. The coordinator will assess your eligibility, and if you qualify, the state will issue you with an EBT card. At the beginning of every month, the state will deposit your SNAP benefit dollars into your SNAP account.

Your SNAP account is linked to your EBT card. Therefore, you’ll spend your monthly SNAP money using your EBT card. However, you aren’t allowed to purchase just about anything with your EBT card; you should spend the money only on SNAP-eligible foodstuff. Also, you can only use your EBT card at SNAP-authorized retail stores.

Fortunately, you can use your SNAP EBT card at any authorized store in any state. For example, if you got your EBT card from Oregon and you’re currently living in California, you are allowed to use your card to purchase eligible foodstuff at any authorized store in California. Retailers who want to be authorized to accept SNAP benefits must apply to Food and Nutrition Service (FNS).

To qualify for this program, retailers must meet one of the two main food stocking requirements. The first rule requires a retailer to prove that over 50 percent of the total dollar amount of their gross sales come from selling eligible staple foods like meat, fish, poultry, fruits, cereals, dairy product, bread, and vegetables.

The second rule requires eligible retailers to continuously sell a minimum of seven different food items that belong to each group of staple food, including perishable items.

Can You Buy Protein Powder with EBT?


The short answer is yes you can buy protein powder with your EBT card, but it depends on the type of protein powder you wish to buy. Although the EBT program allows you to purchase almost any food item, you can’t purchase vitamin supplements or any other type of supplement. Therefore, the type of protein powder you want to buy with your SNAP EBT card must not be a supplement. It should be in the form of an eligible food item.

Therefore, you should check the label on the back of your preferred protein powder to see if it’s a supplement. If the label shows “supplement facts”, it means the product is a supplement and not eligible for SNAP benefits. But if it says, “nutrition facts”, it’s eligible for EBT. For example, you can buy Pure Protein whey powder with your EBT card because it’s labeled “nutrition facts”.

But the CVS protein whey powder brand isn’t eligible for BT because it’s labeled “supplement facts”. So, you’ll need a different mode of payment for this protein powder. If you’re still not very sure about the type of protein powder you are about to purchase, you should seek clarification from your local EBT agency or use the USDA Ask Your Experts tool.

How to Buy Protein Powder with EBT

How to Buy

As noted above, the EBT card works the same way as a credit or debit card. So, it will be swiped at the checkout counter. The most important thing when using your EBT card to buy protein powder is to make sure you understand the basics of SNAP benefits and the rules of using the EBT card.

So, make sure that you don’t choose an illegible protein powder because you won’t be able to redeem your SNAP benefits at the checkout counter. Don’t abuse your SNAP benefits when purchasing protein powder. Familiarize yourself with the EBT guidelines to make sure that your purchase doesn’t violate the rules.

For instance, you can’t use your EBT card to buy alcohol, tobacco, vitamins, medicines, supplements, and household items. If your protein powder brand is too expensive, you should look for cheaper alternatives to save on your SNAP benefits.

Which Protein Powder You Can Buy with EBT?

Protein Powder

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As mentioned above, the possibility of using your EBT card to buy protein powder depends on the type of protein powder you wish to buy. Since the EBT program doesn’t allow participants to buy dietary supplements with the EBT cards, you can’t redeem your SNAP benefits to buy any protein powder labeled “supplement facts”. You can only buy protein powder labeled “nutrition facts”.

The main of issuing SNAP benefits is to enable low-income households to purchase basic food items. Therefore, your EBT card is not for purchasing treats or dietary additions that you can live without. Only the protein powder sold as food can be purchased with an EBT card, and it should also have a “nutrition facts” label.

Most food processors put the “nutrition facts” label on their protein powders to indicate that they are more of food than nutritional supplements. For instance, protein powders with the “nutrition facts” label are made with basic food items like egg whites, milk, and soybeans, while those with the “supplement facts” label are made with various ingredients like acesulfame potassium, aspartame, cellulose gum, rice syrup solids, etc.

Where to Buy Protein Powder with EBT

There are many retailers across the United States who’ve been authorized to accept EBT payments. So, as long as your preferred retailer stocks protein powders that are eligible for this mode of payment, you can easily buy from them. Also, remember that you can now use your EBT card to buy SNAP-eligible food items at any authorized store in any state.

Some states have included online shopping as an option within their states. However, this option hasn’t been approved, so it’s not live yet. Also, all retailers, including online retailers, are required to conform to the FNS retailer stocking requirements. Before any retailer adds online purchase as their shopping option, they should submit a letter of intent to SNAP and meet all online shopping requirements.

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