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.
- Lottery tickets
- Pet food
- 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
- Infant formula
- Peanut butter
- Whole grain foods
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.
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