Does Whole Foods Accept EBT/Food Stamps/SNAP + WIC? Solved

Several years ago, people receiving government food assistance were given physical food stamps. Nowadays, this government food assistance — which usually comes from either the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program — is given through a simple electronic transfer of funds onto an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card. So, if you’re eligible for government food assistance, you’ll receive an EBT card, have your food assistance benefits loaded onto the card each month, and then be able to swipe your card to pay for groceries.

In this article, we’ll dispell the myth that high-end grocery stores don’t accept EBT cards. Read on to find out what you can buy with EBT at Whole Foods (and what you can’t).

EBT Eligible Items at Whole Foods

Because SNAP is a nationwide program, all Whole Foods locations in the United States accept EBT cards. You can use your EBT card at Whole Foods to buy almost anything that isn’t hot, prepared food. You can even buy baked goods from the Whole Foods bakery with your EBT card.

That being said, not all foods are EBT-eligible at Whole Foods.

Departments That Are Exempt

Any item from one of the following departments is exempt from EBT:

  • Beer department
  • Flower/floral department
  • Pets department
  • Wine department
  • Whole Body department

Specific Items That Are Exempt

More specifically, the following items can’t be purchased with government assistance benefits. Even if you do find them on the shelf at Whole Foods, you’ll have to pay with your own money instead of EBT.

  • Alcohol
  • Cigarettes
  • Lottery tickets
  • Pet food
  • Toiletries
  • Vitamins
  • Medicine
  • Hot food and food served and eaten in-store

Wondering if a specific item is EBT-eligible? Check out our article What Can You Buy with Food Stamps/EBT? Listed. Plus What You Can’t. for a comprehensive list.

How to Use EBT at Whole Foods

It works just like a credit or debit card. When you go to the checkout counter, the counter will swipe your EBT card, you’ll enter your PIN on the machine, and then you’ll be able to take your purchases home.

If you don’t have enough money on your EBT account to pay for your full purchase, you can complete the remainder of the purchase with another form of payment. You can check the balance of your EBT card beforehand by either inserting the card into an ATM or calling EBT customer service at (888) 356-3281.

You cannot use EBT for online or delivery orders at Whole Foods. Whole Foods offers grocery delivery through Amazon Prime Now, which accepts major credit cards (American Express, Discover, MasterCard, and Visa) and Amazon.com gift cards. Whole Foods also does not accept EBT for online orders with store pick-up. The USDA is conducting a pilot program for online EBT orders, and some other stores are beginning to accept EBT online; you can find more details in our dedicated article on EBT food delivery.

Does Whole Foods Accept WIC?

WIC is a special government assistance program designed to promote nutrition for women, infants, and children from low-income families that meet specific government requirements. Whole Foods does accept WIC as a form of payment at some locations; each state authorizes retailers to accept WIC checks. You can find out whether your local Whole Foods accepts WIC checks by contacting your state benefits agency or calling your local store.

Foods covered by WIC include the following:

  • Baby food
  • Canned fish
  • Cereals
  • Cheese
  • Eggs
  • Fruits
  • Infant formula
  • Juice
  • Milk
  • Peanut butter
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grain foods

In Summary

Does Whole Foods accept EBT? If you follow the SNAP and WIC guidelines, you’ll find that shopping for items using government benefits is really no different from any other trip to the grocery store. While your government-issued balance may not go as far at Whole Foods as it would at stores with lower prices, if you’re hoping to purchase healthier snacks, specialty foods, or groceries for those with food allergies or other special dietary needs, you’ll find Whole Foods a welcome option.

Suggested Article: Does Sprouts Farmers Market Accept EBT or WIC? Answered

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16 comments

  • You can use EBT for salad bars in supermarkets because they are cold foods. You cannot use it for hot foods on a salad bar. Also, when your EBT balance does not cover the bill, you can have the cashier ring up the exact amount of what remains on the card and pay that with the card and pay the remainder with cash, credit or debit.

    • Kathleen Wilson says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      Hi Kim,
      Thanks for sharing this information with our readers — it’s always helpful to have people chime in to help people understand how this works in practice!

    • Laura Bachmann says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      Hi Barbara,

      Right now, SNAP can’t be used to make an online purchase for grocery delivery. But, that might be changing in the near future. Keep an eye on the USDA’s online purchasing pilot program. Whole Foods is not on the list of grocery stores that are taking part in the pilot program, but those that are might give you some other options. Also, be aware that only the following states are part of the pilot program: Alabama, Iowa, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Washington. The pilot program is set to begin in early 2018, so at that time online purchasing should become available at some stores in some states.

    • Rebecca Turley says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      Hi Robbie,

      That depends on whether the purchase is rung up as a prepared food. I contacted a couple Whole Foods and they said that yes, a salad bar purchase is considered a prepared food and your EBT card therefore could not be used.

  • When you don’t have enough on the EBT card, you have to tell the cashier the exact amount you want to use on the card. When it gets denied, the amount that’s on the card usually prints out for the cashier. You can also call the number on the card so you know how much to tell the cashier. I’ve never been to a business that sells groceries not accept split payment. It’s easy to forget this if you don’t use the whole amount on your card.

  • I went into my Whole Foods store (where I’m a frequent customer) and had a remainder of $5.89 balance on my food card. I was buying grapefruit juice (which was $9.99) knowing that I will be paying the difference. Well, the card didn’t go through at all. We tried a few times and it didn’t even print out the receipt stating none sufficant funds and what not.
    I went to a different market to buy a kerns pear juice for a dollar to see if my card still worked and it went through, giving me a remainder balance of $4.89. I’ve never had this happen before. Do you think it had something to do with technicality issue at the Whole Foods store?

    • Rebecca Turley says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      Hi Orlik,

      Unfortunately, it’s difficult to know what went wrong in this case. Wish we could have been more help!

    • Sherry t. says:

      The cashier can only run the card for the balance left on the card. It depends on the cash register most times. In the furtuse just let them know the remaining balance and tell them to run the card for that specific amount. Some stores can run the card and it will automatically accept the remaining balance while you pay the difference. Other systems will recognize it as you not having enough funds or insufficient funds and fail to do any transaction. Hope this helps!

    • Something similar happened to me at Shoprite. For some reason some registers won’t automatically just take whatever’s on the card and allow you to pay the difference with another payment. If the full amount of the purchase isn’t available on the card it rejects it. The cashier has to enter the exact amount you want deducted from the EBT card.

  • Mariela posso says:

    I just applied for snap and wondering if my local Whole Foods market in Yonkers accepts will allow me to use this program.

    • Hillary M. Miller says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      Hi Mariela,

      As a rule, Whole Foods Markets do accept SNAP. The specific Whole Foods Market located in Yonkers is reported to accept SNAP/EBT as a form of payment. If you’d like to be absolutely certain, it doesn’t hurt to call ahead and verify. The phone number for the Whole Foods location on Ridge Hill Boulevard is (914) 378-8090. I hope this helps!