In the United States, people with low incomes can receive food assistance utilizing Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards. While these cards can provide numerous benefits for low-income shoppers, they can also feature webs of confusing restrictions on what can and cannot be purchased.
Recently, a user on TikTok sparked discussion after sharing just how confusing these restrictions can be. In a video with over 105,000 views, TikTok user @tiktoshh recounts a story from a recent trip to Publix in which she tried to pay for a sandwich using EBT.
My Blood is boiling and my mouth is watering♬ original sound – Tiktoshh
According to @tiktoshh, she had a sandwich made at Publix, then opted to pair the sandwich with some donuts, a bag of chips, and a soda.
When she got to the register, she discovered that the person making her sandwich had heated it up—thus making it ineligible for EBT.
“I didn’t ask for a hot sandwich,” @tiktoshh recounts. “‘The clerk warmed it up’ — I said, ‘well, unwarm it!’”
In general, one cannot use SNAP benefits for food that is prepared or hot at the point of sale.
As the National Council on Aging sums it up, “That’s because the program only covers ‘foods intended for home preparation and consumption.’ This eliminates items such as rotisserie chicken, pre-cooked pizza slices, soup or chili from a prepared foods bar, and coffee or tea from a carafe.” Though, the site goes on to note that “cold sandwiches, salads, and other deli items do qualify for SNAP purchase if you’ll be taking them home to eat.”
In the comments section, many users shared their thoughts on @tiktoshh’s story.
“I would say ok I’ll stand here and wait til it cools then it will be a cold Sammy and I can pay for it lol,” wrote one user.
“As a social worker some of these rules are ridiculous, especially for the homeless!” exclaimed another.
“That happened to me the last time I went to Publix, they tried to say it’s a warm sub,” recalled a third. “I WAS HOT.”
The Daily Dot reached out to Publix via email and @tiktoshh via Instagram direct message.
Update 2:14pm CT January 26: In an Instagram DM exchange with the Daily Dot, @tiktoshh shared her thoughts on the EBT system in general.
“People are always assuming that a certain dynamic of people use EBT, and that’s not always the case!” she wrote. “However, when using EBT, certain types of food items aren’t eligible on EBT, which includes hot food—however, food that was previously hot but turned cold and placed out for sale is okay to purchase, which is a total contradiction of ‘you can’t buy hot food!'”
“They want you to purchase it once it’s cold, as if people using EBT can’t have hot food—but here, now that no one else wants it and it’s day old, you can purchase it with your EBT,” she continued. “There’s also a misconception that everyone on EBT doesn’t work, and that is totally wrong. They may not make enough and need a little help.”