Can You Buy Donuts with EBT? Understanding the Guidelines for EBT Purchases

Have you ever found yourself asking the question: “Can you buy donuts with EBT?” It might seem like a silly question, but when you’re on a tight budget and trying to make every dollar count, knowing what you can and can’t purchase with your benefits can make a big difference. EBT, or Electronic Benefits Transfer, is a government program that provides assistance to low-income individuals and families by giving them funds to buy food. But not all food items are eligible for purchase with EBT, and that can be confusing.

Donuts are a popular treat that many people enjoy. Whether it’s a glazed, powdered, or jelly-filled, there’s just something about sinking your teeth into a freshly baked donut that can brighten up your day. But can you buy them with your EBT benefits? The answer might surprise you. While some might assume that donuts are not an eligible food item, the truth is that it depends on where you purchase them and what type of donuts they are.

If you’re someone who relies on EBT benefits to make ends meet, you know how important it is to stretch your dollars as far as possible. And that means understanding what you can and can’t buy with your benefits. While it might seem like a small thing, knowing whether or not you can buy donuts with EBT can help you make better purchasing decisions and get the most out of your benefits. So the next time you’re craving a sweet treat, take a moment to check if your local bakery accepts EBT – you might be surprised at what you can buy.

Overview of EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer)

EBT stands for Electronic Benefits Transfer, which is a government program that allows qualifying individuals to receive food and cash assistance. The program works by providing recipients with a card that looks like a debit or credit card, but instead of being loaded with money, it is loaded with benefits that can be used to purchase eligible food items and other necessities.

How EBT Works

  • Qualifying individuals apply for benefits through their state’s or territory’s EBT program.
  • Once approved, a card is issued and benefits are loaded onto it each month.
  • The card can be used at participating grocery stores and retailers to purchase eligible items.
  • EBT benefits cannot be used to purchase non-food items like alcohol, tobacco, or household supplies.

Types of EBT Benefits

The two main types of EBT benefits are food benefits and cash benefits.

  • Food benefits are also known as SNAP benefits (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and can be used to buy eligible food items like fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy, bread, and cereal.
  • Cash benefits are provided through programs like TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) and can be used to pay for housing, utilities, and other necessities.

Can You Buy Donuts with EBT?

While EBT benefits can be used to purchase many food items, there are restrictions on what can be bought with them. Eligible food items must be considered “basic” or “staple” foods, meaning they are unprepared or minimally prepared and have a nutritional value.

Eligible food items with EBT:Ineligible food items with EBT:
Fruits and vegetablesAlcohol, tobacco, and non-food item
Meat, poultry, and fishPrepared foods or hot foods
Dairy productsLuxury food items
Breads and cerealsCandy and soda

Unfortunately, donuts and other bakery items are considered luxury food items and are therefore ineligible for purchase with EBT benefits. While this may be disappointing, it’s important to remember that the goal of the program is to provide basic nutrition to those who need it most.

Eligible foods for purchase with EBT

EBT, also known as electronic benefits transfer, is a government-funded program that provides financial assistance to low-income individuals and families. EBT cards are used to purchase food items at participating retailers. However, not all food items are eligible for purchase with EBT. Eligible foods for purchase with EBT include:

  • Breads and cereals
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Meat, poultry, and fish
  • Dairy products
  • Seeds and plants to grow food at home

It’s important to note that EBT benefits cannot be used to purchase non-food items, such as alcohol, tobacco, and household items. Additionally, hot prepared foods are typically not eligible for purchase with EBT, although there are some exceptions to this rule, such as when purchasing hot meals at approved retailers or in areas with limited access to cooking facilities.

To determine whether a specific food item is eligible for purchase with EBT, you can refer to the USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) guidelines, which provide a detailed list of eligible and non-eligible foods. You can also check with your local retailer to see if they accept EBT benefits, as not all retailers participate in the program.

SNAP Eligible Food Items

  • Bread and bread products
  • Cereal and cereal products
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Meat, fish, poultry, and game
  • Dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt
  • Seeds and plants to grow food at home

Non-Eligible Food Items

Non-food items that cannot be purchased with EBT benefits include:

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Tobacco products
  • Household items, such as soap, paper products, and pet food
  • Hot prepared foods, unless purchased from approved locations

Exceptions to Hot Prepared Foods Rule

While hot prepared foods are typically not eligible for purchase with EBT, there are some exceptions to this rule, including:

Approved RetailersCertain hot foods, such as rotisserie chicken, may be eligible for purchase
Limited Access AreasHot meals may be available for purchase when there are limited cooking facilities in the area

If you’re unsure whether a specific hot prepared food is eligible for purchase with EBT, it’s best to check with your local retailer or the USDA’s SNAP guidelines for clarification.

Federal Regulations on EBT Purchases

As per the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, also known as Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT), are exclusively used to purchase food items. According to the USDA, they have set strict guidelines for EBT purchases to ensure that beneficiaries use their benefits wisely. Retailers authorized to accept EBT transactions must abide by these guidelines.

  • Food Items Eligible for EBT Purchases
  • SNAP beneficiaries may use their EBT cards to purchase food items that are ready-to-eat or can be prepared at home. Examples include:

  • Bakery Items – bread, buns, rolls, cakes, and pastries
  • Fruits and Vegetables
  • Dairy Products – milk, cheese, and yogurt
  • Meat and Poultry – chicken, turkey, beef, and pork
  • Seafood – fish and shellfish
  • Soft Drinks and Energy Drinks
  • Cooking Spices and Herbs
  • Seeds and Plants – to grow fruits and vegetables at home
  • Candy and Other Sweetened Beverages Are Not Eligible

It is important to note that SNAP beneficiaries cannot use their EBT cards to purchase ready-to-eat food items from a restaurant or eating establishment.

Retailers authorized to accept EBT payments must comply with the USDA’s strict guidelines, or they run the risk of losing their eligibility to accept EBT transactions.

Prohibitions on EBT Purchases

The USDA prohibits certain items, which ineligible items include:

  • Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco Products
  • Non-Food Household Items – soap, paper products, and household supplies
  • Medicine and Vitamins
  • Pet Food
  • Hot Food Items – such as a hot sandwich, cooked chicken, and hot pizza’s

EBT transactions also do not cover non-food items, including pet food, personal hygiene products, or house supplies. SNAP beneficiaries are responsible for paying for such products using cash, credit, or debit cards.

Retailer Responsibility

Employers authorised to take EBT transactions need to follow government guidelines. Online retailers may not recognise EBT payments. EBT transactions create a payment processing fee, which means that some retailers may not be able to market to SNAP beneficiaries because of these costs.

Retailer Responsibility for EBT PaymentsCompliance Guidelines
Check the EBT CardScratched/decrepit EBT cards may indicate fraud, and retailers could deny accepting them.
Product EligibilityIt’s crucial for authorised retailers to review EBT-eligible item lists to ensure that EBT cards pay only for foods and plants. Fitness items such as cloth are not enabled for EBT purchases.
Billing ProceduresApproved merchants must specifically identify and isolate EBT transactions within their overall payment controls.

Retailers may be held accountable for fraudulent EBT transactions. The USDA directs the Food and Nutrition Service to hold both the retailer and the customer accountable for any illegal EBT transactions. A business that accepts counterfeit EBT payments will lose its authorisation to process such payments and may face legal action.


The USDA sets strict rules for EBT purchases, ensuring that SNAP beneficiaries use their benefits correctly. Retailers that accept EBT transactions must follow these rules, or they risk losing their ability to accept EBT transactions. The USDA disallows non-food items, including household supplies, pet food, vitamins, and alcoholic beverages to be purchased with EBT cards. Retailers must adhere to the agency’s guidelines for EBT payments.

State-specific regulations on EBT purchases

While the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) sets federal guidelines for what can be purchased with Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards, each state has the flexibility to add additional regulations or restrictions on EBT purchases.

Here are some examples of state-specific regulations on EBT purchases:

  • Some states do not allow the purchase of hot prepared foods (such as rotisserie chicken or deli sandwiches) with EBT, while others do.
  • In certain states, EBT cannot be used to purchase non-food items, such as household supplies and personal care items.
  • Some states have implemented restrictions on sugary drinks and snacks, limiting the size or type of items that can be purchased with EBT.

It’s important to note that these regulations can vary widely among states, so it’s always a good idea to check with your local SNAP office or state government website for a full list of EBT regulations in your area.

State-specific EBT websites

  • California:
  • Texas:
  • New York:

State-specific EBT data

A recent study by the USDA found that the percentage of SNAP benefits spent on certain food categories varies widely by state. For example:

CategoryLowest StateHighest State
Meat, poultry, fish14.2%20.6%
Sweetened beverages5.4%10.2%

This data highlights the importance of understanding state-specific regulations on EBT purchases, as they can have a significant impact on food choices and the overall health of SNAP participants.

History and Evolution of the EBT Program

The Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) Program is a system that provides electronic access to government benefits, including food stamps, Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF), and other types of assistance. The program was initiated in the early 1990s, and since then, it has undergone significant changes to improve efficiency and enhance access to benefits for those in need.

How EBT Works

  • EBT cards work like debit cards but can only be used to purchase items that are approved under the program.
  • When a cardholder purchases eligible items at a participating retailer, the retailer swipes the EBT card and enters the purchase amount.
  • The system deducts the total cost of the purchase from the cardholder’s account, and the retailer receives payments electronically.

Benefits of EBT Program

The EBT system has been an effective way to provide assistance to those in need. The program has reduced administrative costs and eliminated the need for paper checks, making it a more efficient and convenient method for both government agencies and participants to manage their benefits. EBT also reduces fraud and errors in benefit distribution, making the process more secure and reliable.

The use of EBT has also eliminated stigma and negative judgments that some people experienced when using paper food stamps, as the program operates like a regular debit card and looks like any other financial transaction.

Challenges and Controversies Surrounding EBT

Although EBT has many benefits, it faces some challenges and controversies. One of the primary challenges is ensuring that the program is adequately funded to meet the needs of program participants. The program also faces criticism from some groups who claim that it is enabling people to abuse the system and discourages welfare recipients from finding employment.

In recent years, some states have tried to impose restrictions on EBT use, with some proposing to restrict the purchase of certain items such as energy drinks or junk food.

2004Walmart becomes the largest retailer to accept EBT.
2006The EBT system is upgraded to allow the use of smart cards, which provide enhanced security and additional functionality.
2013More states switch to online or mobile EBT systems.

Despite these challenges, the EBT program continues to be a vital system that provides assistance to millions of people in the United States. With the increasing use of technology, it is expected that EBT will continue to evolve and improve in the future.

Criticisms of the EBT program

The EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) program was designed to help low-income families and individuals acquire basic necessities. The program has received criticism from various groups for different reasons ranging from fraud to encouraging a welfare state. Here are six major criticisms of the EBT program:

  • Fraud: One of the most significant criticisms of the EBT program is that it is susceptible to fraud. Some individuals have been caught using the card to purchase luxurious items such as tattoos, cruises, and strip clubs, which do not fall under the program’s intended use.
  • Dependency: Critics argue that the EBT program creates dependency rather than promoting self-sufficiency. It is believed that the program discourages individuals from working or taking steps to improve their financial situation. Moreover, some critics maintain that the program reinforces a “welfare state” mentality and prevents people from lifting themselves out of poverty.
  • Limited coverage: The program has limitations that limit the number of people who benefit from it. For instance, the EBT program does not cater to all essential needs like housing. Families or individuals have to use other programs to obtain assistance, which could cause more bureaucracy and procedures to go through.
  • Stigmatization: There is a stigma attached to the use of EBT cards. Some people feel ashamed or embarrassed to pull out their cards to use them in grocery stores. This issue of stigmatization can discourage the take-up of the program.
  • Abuse: Critics argue that some EBT recipients abuse the program by selling their benefits or using them for non-essential goods. They believe that recipients should be prevented from using the card to buy items that are not part of the program’s intended use.
  • Cost: Another criticism leveled at the EBT program is that they are too expensive to administer. The costs involve training staff, processing applications, and managing the card system itself. Critics argue that the system’s overhead costs are higher than other methods of distributing assistance.


While the EBT program has made strides in fighting poverty, there is still room for improvement. One way to address these criticisms is to put in place more stringent measures to prevent abuse and ensure greater accountability on the use of the program’s benefits. Additionally, the creation of more welfare programs that are integrated to cover essential needs will go a long way in ensuring that vulnerable populations are well catered for.

Benefits of the EBT Program for Low-Income Individuals

Managing finances can be challenging, especially for low-income individuals. The Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) program is a government program that provides financial assistance to eligible individuals through food and cash benefits. It has several benefits that provide support to improve the lives of low-income individuals.

  • Access to Nutritious Food: One of the primary benefits of the EBT program is that it provides access to nutritious food for low-income individuals. With EBT benefits, individuals can purchase groceries at participating retail stores, including fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy products. This vital support helps alleviate hunger for vulnerable populations while ensuring they receive critical nutrients for a healthy diet.
  • Flexible Spending: While EBT benefits for food can only be used at authorized retailers, the cash benefits can be used for any household expense, such as rent, bills, or transportation. This allowance provides recipients with more flexibility and financial freedom to address their basic needs more efficiently.
  • Improved Financial Management: The EBT program provides a reliable and predictable source of financial support to low-income individuals. This stability helps them better budget and manage their finances while covering their essential expenses. The program also provides users with detailed transaction histories and balances, enabling individuals to monitor their spending and improve their money management techniques.

Overall, the EBT program is an integral part of the social safety net for low-income individuals. It provides access to critical benefits that support households in meeting their basic needs and improving their financial security.

EBT-Approved Items: Can You Buy Donuts with EBT?

While the EBT program provides vital financial assistance for low-income households, there are guidelines for the types of products that are eligible for purchase. For example, EBT benefits cannot be used to purchase alcohol, tobacco, hot prepared food items, or non-food items such as cleaning supplies or pet food. Recently, a common question has surfaced: can you buy donuts with EBT?

Food ItemEBT-Approved*
Fruits and VegetablesYes
Bakery Items (i.e., Bread, Cookies, Cakes)Yes
Hot Prepared FoodsNo
Candy and SnacksYes
Alcoholic BeveragesNo

As shown in the table above, doughnuts are EBT-eligible items and can be purchased with EBT benefits as long as they are not hot-prepared. Overall, EBT benefits aim to provide low-income households with the ability to purchase nutritious food and meet their essential needs, including affordable indulgences such as bakery items like doughnuts.

Statistics on EBT usage in the United States

As of June 2021, approximately 42.7 million individuals in the United States were enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as the food stamp program. SNAP provides low-income individuals and families with financial assistance to purchase food and beverages. EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) cards are used to access SNAP benefits, which can be used at authorized retailers to buy eligible food items.

Top 8 States with the Highest EBT Usage

  • Mississippi: 21% of the population is on SNAP
  • New Mexico: 20% of the population is on SNAP
  • West Virginia: 19% of the population is on SNAP
  • Oklahoma: 18% of the population is on SNAP
  • Kentucky: 18% of the population is on SNAP
  • Alabama: 17% of the population is on SNAP
  • Louisiana: 17% of the population is on SNAP
  • Tennessee: 17% of the population is on SNAP

Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on EBT Usage

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the number of individuals and families using SNAP benefits. As of June 2021, there were 8.1 million more SNAP recipients than before the pandemic began in early 2020. This increase can be attributed to job losses, income reduction, and other economic impacts of the pandemic.

In response to the pandemic, the federal government has authorized emergency benefits to SNAP recipients and issued pandemic EBT (P-EBT) benefits to families with children who have lost access to free or reduced-price school meals due to school closures. These additional benefits have helped reduce food insecurity for many low-income families during the pandemic.

EBT Usage at Fast Food Restaurants

It is commonly believed that EBT benefits cannot be used to purchase prepared foods at fast food restaurants such as McDonald’s or Burger King. However, there are a few states that have implemented Restaurant Meals Programs (RMPs) that allow recipients to use their SNAP benefits at approved restaurants. These programs are targeted toward elderly, disabled, or homeless SNAP recipients who may not have access to a kitchen to prepare their own food.

States with RMPsEffective Date
Rhode Island2016

Despite these programs, the vast majority of fast food restaurants do not accept EBT benefits. Eligible foods for SNAP benefits are limited to essential items such as bread, milk, fruits and vegetables, and meat products.

Online EBT purchasing options

As technology advances, it has become easier for individuals to purchase goods and services online. This convenience has also extended to those who need to use EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) cards to purchase groceries. There are several online EBT purchasing options available for those who cannot or prefer not to shop in person.

  • Amazon Fresh: Amazon Fresh allows customers to use their EBT card to purchase groceries online for delivery or pick-up. However, this service is only available in select states.
  • Walmart Grocery Pick-up: Walmart Grocery allows customers to place their orders online with their EBT card and pick up their groceries in person. This service is available in most states where Walmart operates.
  • ALDI Curbside Grocery Pickup: ALDI allows customers to place their orders online with their EBT card and pick up their groceries in person. This service is only available in select states.

In addition to these specific services, some grocery stores may offer their own online purchasing options. It is important to check with your local store to see if they offer this service and what their specific policies are.

When using these online EBT purchasing options, it is important to note that certain items may not be eligible for purchase with EBT. For example, pre-prepared food items may not be eligible. It is important to read the store’s policies and guidelines before placing your order.

Online EBT Purchasing OptionAvailability by State
Amazon FreshCalifornia, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, New York, Oregon, Virginia, Washington
Walmart Grocery Pick-upAvailable in most states where Walmart operates
ALDI Curbside Grocery PickupIllinois, Pennsylvania, New York, Michigan, Connecticut, California, Florida, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio, Texas, Virginia, and Washington D.C.

In conclusion, while shopping with an EBT card may have once been limited to in-person purchases, the availability of online EBT purchasing options has provided a convenient alternative for many. Whether you choose to use Amazon Fresh, Walmart Grocery Pick-up, ALDI Curbside Grocery Pickup, or another online service, it is important to understand the guidelines and policies before making your purchases.

Impact of COVID-19 on EBT usage for food purchases

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the economic stability of communities throughout the United States. Millions of people have lost their jobs or experienced a decrease in work hours, resulting in food insecurity for many households.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly referred to as EBT or food stamps, has been a crucial resource for families facing food insecurity. The pandemic has led to significant increases in the number of people using EBT benefits to purchase food. Let’s take a closer look at how COVID-19 has impacted EBT usage for food purchases.

  • Increased demand for EBT benefits – as millions of people nationwide lost their jobs or experienced a reduction in work hours due to COVID-19, there was a significant increase in demand for EBT benefits. In some states, applications for benefits increased by over 60% during the pandemic.
  • Online purchasing options – many states have expanded their EBT online purchasing options in response to the pandemic, allowing households to order groceries online and have them delivered or picked up curbside. This has been an important feature for those who are immunocompromised or have limited transportation options.
  • Changes to eligible items – some states have temporarily expanded the list of eligible items that can be purchased with EBT benefits. For example, hot prepared foods are typically not eligible, but some states have made an exception during the pandemic to support those who may not have access to cooking facilities.

Overall, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the critical role that programs like EBT play in addressing food insecurity in the United States. While the pandemic has been an extremely challenging time for many households, the increased use of EBT benefits has meant that families still have access to the food they need to sustain themselves during difficult times.

Here is a table summarizing the changes that have been made to EBT usage during the COVID-19 pandemic:

StateChange to EBT Benefits
New YorkOnline purchasing options added for EBT users
CaliforniaHot prepared foods now eligible for purchase with EBT benefits
FloridaIncreased funding for EBT benefits to meet increased demand

As we continue to navigate the ongoing impacts of COVID-19, it is clear that programs like EBT will be a critical lifeline for many households facing food insecurity.

FAQs about Can You Buy Donuts with EBT

1. Can you purchase donuts with EBT?

Yes, you can buy donuts with EBT. Donuts are considered food items and are therefore eligible for purchase with EBT.

2. Can you buy donuts from any store with EBT?

As long as the store accepts EBT, you can buy donuts from any store that sells them.

3. Are there any restrictions on buying donuts with EBT?

No, there are no restrictions on the types of food items you can purchase with EBT, including donuts.

4. Can you buy donuts from a bakery with EBT?

Yes, you can buy donuts from a bakery that accepts EBT.

5. Can you buy donut holes with EBT?

Yes, you can purchase donut holes with EBT as long as the store that sells them accepts EBT.

6. Can you buy gourmet or specialty donuts with EBT?

Yes, you can buy gourmet or specialty donuts with EBT as long as the store that sells them accepts EBT.

7. Can you buy frozen donuts with EBT?

Yes, you can purchase frozen donuts with EBT as long as the store that sells them accepts EBT.

Closing Thoughts

We hope this article has provided you with all the information you need to know about purchasing donuts with EBT. Remember, as long as the store accepts EBT, you can purchase any type of donut you like! Thank you for reading and please visit us again for more informative articles like this one.