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Can You Get Hot Food With Food Stamps?

Last Updated on February 24, 2024 by Lauren Beck

The federal program called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps, offers financial aid to low-income individuals and families to help them buy food.

The program uses Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards, which work like debit cards, to distribute benefits to eligible individuals. However, there are certain limitations to what can be purchased with SNAP benefits, and hot food is among the items that cannot be purchased with EBT cards. 

In this article, we will explore the restrictions of SNAP benefits, the Restaurant Meals Program, and the locations that accept EBT cards.

What Are EBT Cards?

EBT cards are electronic debit cards that are used to distribute SNAP benefits. Eligible individuals and families can use the cards to purchase food items at authorized retailers that accept EBT cards. The cards can be used at grocery stores, supermarkets, and some farmers’ markets.

What You Can Buy With Calfresh Benefits

  • Breads and cereals
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Meats, fish, and poultry
  • Dairy products
  • Seeds and plants that produce food for the household to eat

What You Cannot Buy

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Tobacco products
  • Hot food or food that is ready to eat
  • Vitamins and medicines
  • Pet food
  • Household items such as soap, paper products, and toiletries

Restaurant Meals Program

SNAP benefits can be used to purchase hot food through the Restaurant Meals Program (RMP). The RMP is a program that allows eligible SNAP recipients to use their benefits to purchase hot meals at participating restaurants. However, it is only available in certain states and for certain groups of individuals.

Locations Accepting EBT Cards

sample california EBT card

SNAP benefits can be used to purchase food at authorized retailers that accept EBT cards. These include:

  • Grocery stores
  • Supermarkets
  • Some farmers’ markets
  • Some convenience stores

Why Can’t You Buy Hot Meals With Food Stamps?

SNAP benefits are intended to provide low-income individuals and families with assistance to purchase food for home preparation. The program is not intended to provide assistance for purchasing hot meals at restaurants. This is why hot food and food that is ready to eat are not eligible for purchase with SNAP benefits.

How to Apply to SNAP?

To apply for SNAP benefits, individuals and families must submit an application through their state’s SNAP agency. The application process typically requires proof of income, assets, and household size. Eligibility for the program is determined based on these factors, as well as the state’s guidelines.

Who Is Eligible to Use Snap Benefits at Restaurants?

Eligibility for the Restaurant Meals Program varies by state, but it is typically available to certain groups of SNAP recipients such as:

  • Elderly individuals
  • Individuals with disabilities
  • Homeless individuals

Where Can I Use My Snap Benefits Card?

SNAP benefits can be used at authorized retailers that accept EBT cards [1]. These include grocery stores, supermarkets, and some farmers’ markets.

Fast Food Restaurants That Take EBT

Fast food restaurants do not typically accept EBT cards, but they may participate in the Restaurant Meals Program in certain states. It is best to check with the individual restaurant or the state’s SNAP agency for more information on participating locations.


SNAP benefits, also known as food stamps, are intended to provide financial assistance to low-income individuals and families for purchasing food for home preparation. However, hot food and ready to eat food are not covered by SNAP benefits. Certain states have the Restaurant Meals Program which allows certain groups of SNAP recipients to purchase hot meals. However, it is important to check with the state’s SNAP agency or the individual restaurant to check their participation in the program and locations.


Lauren Beck
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