Does Sprouts Accept EBT, SNAP or WIC?

Sprouts Farmers Market stores are big, bright, colorful markets filled with all kinds of organic and conventional produce imaginable, as well as grains, fresh meats, fish, and many other kinds of groceries. In Sprouts market you’ll also find a wide selection of prepared foods, and you can even take advantage of Sprouts catering service to feed your guests at your next party or event.

Sprouts Farmers Market was founded by a family named Boney in Chandler, AZ in 2002. The founders were descendants of Henry Boney, who operated a produce stand in San Diego, CA beginning in 1943. Today there are over 250 Sprouts Farmers Markets operating in 13 states. Step into one of these stores or visit the Sprouts website and you’ll immediately pick up on a theme of healthy eating and cost saving. In fact the Sprouts slogan is “It’s Healthy Living for Less.” Search the web and you’ll even find this Sprouts promotional video featuring the tag line “You don’t have to be wealthy to eat healthy.”

With this self-proclaimed commitment to healthy eating and cost value it seems natural to assume that Sprouts would be an enthusiastic participant in programs designed to bring health and nutrition to the less fortunate members of the market’s local communities.

First, Some Information About SNAP, WIC and EBT

SNAP, WIC, EBT cards. You’ve probably heard of them. Perhaps you or your family or someone you know has needed these services at some point. Maybe you’re wondering what these services actually are, how they work and what they provide.

SNAP, WIC and EBT cards are all aspects of a general system of federally funded benefits for people in need. This general system is known by many names; Public Assistance, Public Aid and Welfare for example. Though many people believe that “Welfare” is a single specific program it is actually a system featuring many different components which provide several types of benefits; financial support, healthcare benefits, housing assistance, and food for eligible people. Though federally funded, each state administers benefits individually and may have slightly different criteria for qualification.

SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and WIC (Women, Infants and Children) are two programs which supply nutritional benefits.

What is SNAP?

SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps, is available to anyone who qualifies financially. It is essentially a monthly allowance which can be used to purchase food. Primarily used in grocery stores, SNAP has specific rules regarding eligible and prohibited purchases, as follows:

Eligible items

  • Breads and cereals
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Meats, fish, poultry
  • Dairy products
  • Seeds and plants which produce food

Prohibited items

  • Alcohol, cigarettes or tobacco
  • Pet food
  • Soaps, paper products or cleaning supplies
  • Vitamins and supplements
  • Food that will be consumed in the store
  • Hot foods

What is WIC?

WIC is also a nutritional aid program but differs from SNAP in some important ways. WIC is considered a short term program for nutritional support available to a limited segment of the financially eligible population. Specifically WIC is for women who are:

  • Pregnant
  • Breast feeding
  • Post-partum but not breast feeding up to six months after giving birth

And to children who are:

  • Infants up to one year old
  • Up to five years old and deemed nutritionally at risk due to medical or dietary conditions

The latter is determined through a medical examination.

The WIC program provides specific dollar amounts which can be used to purchase very specific types of nutritious foods such as milk, baby food and formula and fortified breads. Foods must be purchased in specific quantities and often only certain brands and certain SKUs within a brand are eligible. For more information about SNAP and the standard WIC program check out the FQF articles here and here.

Are There Any Other Federal Nutrition Programs?

Yes. In addition to the basic WIC program, Congress established in 1992 an additional program known as the WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program to help provide fresh unprocessed locally grown produce to WIC members. Not only does this benefit the program recipients by providing them with healthy fruits and vegetables in season, but the plan benefits the growers by raising the profile of farmers’ markets and increasing sales. In addition to the WIC FMNP there is a similar federal program specifically for seniors, the Seniors Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP.)

What Are EBT Cards and What is Their Connection With All of the Above?

EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) cards are simply electronic magnetically encoded cards, similar to debit cards, through which SNAP and standard WIC benefits are provided. (WIC FMNP and SFMNP still use a paper voucher system.) People applying for assistance will be issued a card when deemed eligible and will be instructed to create a PIN number (which the card holder can change at any time.)

Money is loaded onto the cards each month by the agency providing benefits. Each state is different with regard to which day of the month the card is re-loaded. When making a purchase the user swipes the card at the point of purchase and enters their PIN to buy eligible items. There is no cash back feature with the SNAP or WIC cards and ineligible items will not be debited to the card. EBT cards have replaced the old paper food stamps and WIC vouchers of the past, making it easier for both the shopper and the retailer to efficiently complete transactions.

So SNAP and WIC Both Use EBT cards. Are There Any Other Types of EBT Cards, Say for Purchase of Non-Food Items?

Yes. Though we are specifically addressing nutritional benefits in this article, EBT cards are also used to provide cash benefits through other federal programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and some refugee services. The cards used for these programs function as pre-loaded debit/ATM cards. Users can make purchases of anything one can buy with a debit card and get cash back at the store or make a cash withdrawal from an ATM. For this reason you may sometimes see people using EBT cards for purchases not on the “eligible” lists for the nutritional programs.

Sprouts Farmers Market

As stated above, Sprouts Farmers Market prides itself on a commitment to quality food at low prices. Further, the chain positions itself as a socially responsible retailer. Through its Sprouts Healthy Communities Foundation the chain claims to “contribute even more to the health of our communities through meaningful partnerships with local non-profit organizations.” Given these claims of dedication to health and nutrition and social responsibility it seems natural that Sprouts would welcome shoppers relying on subsidized nutritional programs. Searching the website however revealed no information in regard to SNAP, WIC, EBT cards or any other federal assistance programs.

Continuing to search the web however revealed additional information. A search of the US Government’s EBT retail locator for states which have Sprouts Farmers Markets proved that my assumption was correct and reveals several Sprouts locations where EBT cards can be used.

Specifically Which Sprouts Farmers Markets Stores Accept EBT cards?

I picked up the phone and called Sprouts customer service toll free number from their website. The friendly customer service agent who picked up revealed that yes, all Sprouts Farmers Markets accept EBT cards. A web search to confirm this appears to support this assertion, with confirmation found here and on Sprouts Facebook page here.  I inquired specifically about the SNAP program and it was confirmed that Sprouts does not accept SNAP EBT cards for the items previously listed as prohibited, or for its catering service.

But Does Sprouts Accept All Types of EBT Cards?

No. Sprouts takes SNAP EBT cards and the type issued for financial assistance but does not participate in WIC or the WIC FMNP and Seniors FMNP programs. Surprised to find that this company would not participate in WIC, a further search revealed this from Sprouts Farmers Market Facebook post from August 6, 2015:

Currently we do not accept WIC at our stores. We have looked into this in the past ; however this program is normally only good towards “conventional” food items that Sprouts does not carry in our stores. We apologize for any inconvenience and hope that you will continue to allow us to serve you with your other needs.”

A repeat call to Sprouts customer service line confirmed that this is still true, and that Sprouts also does not participate in the FMNP programs.

Does Sprouts Take EBT, SNAP or WIC? Conclusion

So in conclusion you may use your SNAP related EBT card at any Sprouts Farmers Market for eligible purchases. For WIC or FMNP purchases you will have to shop elsewhere, such as Whole Foods.