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What are food stamps? Food insecurity, SNAP payment schedule and can you use benefits to buy cannabis products?

Most people still use the saying “food stamps” even though the name of the program is SNAP.

SNAP benefits

Why is that? Also, what are the restrictions on what I can buy with my benefit and when do I get it?


The Inflation Reduction Act and current inflation rates

Brief history of food stamps

Most people know food stamps through EBT cards– but they actually used to come as paper stamps. The paper notes used to come in $1, $5, $10 and $20 denominations just like real money. Every food stamp in America came in this form until 1990 when electronic benefits transfer, or EBT, cards were introduced. By 2004, the program went completely electronic.

Despite the name–food stamp, these coupons never looked like something that could be used as postage on an envelope. Then why are they called food stamps? To find that answer, we will have to look back to the Great Depression. In the 1930’s no one had money for groceries which drastically reduced demand and and effectively put agricultural prices in the toilet. Farmers had surplus crops that were useless to take to the market, despite that regular people were starving.

In order to address this, the Roosevelt administration created a program in 1939 where you could buy $1.50 in “food stamps” for a dollar. This provided people with an additional $0.50 that was used on products made from surplus crops. By 1943, the program was canceled after just four years because World War II solved the demand problem.

In 1961, the modern food stamp program was created but people still insisted on calling the coupons “food stamps,” even though stamplike food stamps had been discontinued for the last 18 years. It has been 80 years since food stamps were stamps, and 20 years since they were physical objects of any kind. However, people still use the outdated term. Now, the food stamp program is referred to as SNAP, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and is entirely electronic.

Households struggling to afford food

In the last year, one in ten American households struggled to feed their families. More than 5 million families have had to miss meals or cut portions because of poverty. Right now, food insecurity in households with children is the lowest level on record. However, families still account for almost half of the country’s food-insecure households. In 2021, 2.3 million people could not afford adequate nutritional food.

America is the richest country in the world, but children in 274,000 American households went hungry. In most cases adults went without to ensure the children were adequately fed. However, for the 0.7% of extremely poor households there was not enough food for anyone. There are too many cases of skipped meals or not eating for entire days because there was not enough money to buy food. Inadequate nutrition can affect children’s growth and physical development. It also impacts their ability thrive, play and learn.

Food Insecurity in the US remains high. There was a slight downward trend in 2021but is significantly lower than it was during the 2020 Covid-19 shutdown. Widespread layoffs led to record numbers of Americans relying on food banks and food stamps to get by.

For some groups, things got worse last year. According to a survey by the USDA, they found higher levels of food insecurity in adult-only households especially for women and elderly people living alone.

Recent USDA findings see the US teetering on the brink of recession as food costs hit double digit inflation. Individual households are also under more pressure as states roll back pandemic-linked financial support such as free school meals for every child, child tax credits and many states now stopping expanded food stamp benefits. There are concerns that food hardship has been steadily rising in families with children this year.

Why is food insecurity so high?

Food insecurity and unequal access to grocery stores play a major role in a range of public health epidemics. Obesity, diabetes, heart disease and tooth decay, are all growing problems as unhealthy processed foods with high levels of fat and sugar are often cheaper and more accessible than healthier options.

Later this month, the White House will host a conference on hunger, nutrition and health. This will be the first event of its kind in more than 50 years. It is unclear whether the conference will address the root causes of America’s food insecurity epidemic. Experts say the root of the cause is fundamentally an economic and racial justice issue.

One in four Americans rely on federal nutrition assistance such as food stamps and free school lunches. The rates are higher among Indigenous, Black and Latino households. Since 2000, food insecurity has never fallen below 10%. However, this number peaked in 2007 during the aftermath of the housing market collapse. Older Americans are still experiencing higher levels of food insecurity than before the Great Recession.

September SNAP schedule for New York

In New York, SNAP is administered by two different agencies. In New York City, the Department of Social Services Human Resources Administration is in charge of SNAP benefits. The New York Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance runs it in the rest of the state. Because there are two different agencies in charge of SNAP benefits, New York has two SNAP schedules. Your payment schedule will depend on where you live.

Benefits are paid out monthly to SNAP accounts linked to EBT cards. The cards can then be used to purchase most food items at grocery stores, some retail locations and farmers’ markets.

Outside of NYC, benefits are sent out over the first nine days of every month based on the last digit of your case number. The payment dates for September are as follows:

  • case number ending in 0 or 1: Sept. 1st
  • 2: Sept. 2nd
  • 3: Sept. 3rd
  • 4: Sept. 4th
  • 5: Sept. 5th
  • 6: Sept. 6th
  • 7: Sept. 7th
  • 8: Sept. 8th
  • 9: Sept. 9th

If you live in one of the five broughs of NYC, benefits are sent out during the first two weeks of each month– excluding Sundays and holidays.

The actual payment dates vary from month to month, but the city’s SNAP agency publishes a six-month schedule showing the exact dates for each month. You can also check the schedule by phone at (888) 328-6399. You will need to provide your 19-digit card number. Here is the September 2022 SNAP schedule for NYC:

  • toe number- 0: Sept. 1st
  • 1: Sept. 2nd
  • 2: Sept. 6th
  • 3: Sept. 7th
  • 4: Sept. 8th
  • 5: Sept. 9th
  • 6: Sept. 12th
  • 7: Sept 13th
  • 8: Sept. 14th
  • 9: Sept. 15th

More Minnesota families eligible for SNAP benefits starting in September

Minnesota is raising the income limit for SNAP households beginning September 1st. The new income limit means an additional 1,400 families may be eligible to receive SNAP benefits. The income threshold will be increasing from 165% of the federal poverty line to 200%. Monthly benefits won’t increase, but more households will be eligible. Benefits are based on a household’s net income. Minnesota is now the 20th state to set the gross income threshold at 200% of the federal poverty level.

Can you use food stamps to buy cannabis products?

There are guidelines and restriction on what items can be purchased with SNAP benefits. This applies to both food items and non-food items such as cannabis products. The USDA has created a distinction between hemp food products and items that contain cannabis-derived products.

The UDSA allows items that contain hulled hemp seed, hemp seed protein powder, and hemp seed oil may be purchased on an EBT card. However, hemp plants, leaves, and shoots are not eligible. Food containing cannabis-derived products, like CBD, also are not eligible for purchase with SNAP benefits.


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