Individuals enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program can now temporarily use their benefits to purchase hot foods due to the recent California wildfires, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Several fires broke out across California during the past few weeks, such as the Woosley Fire in Ventura. Courtesy of SBSO Public Information Officer Mike Eliason

This hot foods exception applies to 14 California counties, including Santa Barbara, Butte, Glenn, Colusa, Kern, Los Angeles, Orange, Plumas, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, Sutter, Tehama, Ventura and Yuba.

Any individual from those 14 counties enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (S.N.A.P.) program can purchase hot foods with these benefits until Dec. 17.

This includes all S.N.A.P. benefit recipients within those counties, not just those who have been affected by the recent fires.

“Thousands of California residents are trying to piece their lives back together even as these wildfires continue blazing,” said Brandon Lipps, the acting deputy of Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, in a press release sent out last Wednesday.

“This waiver will allow residents more flexibility to use in feeding their families as they get back on their feet.”

Ordinarily, those in the program can only purchase cold foods, such as bread, cereal, fruits, vegetables, dairy products and meats, as stipulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) website.

S.N.A.P. benefits typically cannot be used to buy alcoholic beverages, pet foods, soaps, household supplies, vitamins, medicines and hot foods among other restrictions.

Hot foods are the only temporary exception on the aforementioned list.

The department will also provide “mass replacement of SNAP benefits” for those who experienced food losses due to power outages in the Butte and Plumas counties, the press release stated.

There are currently five fires burning across California, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE).

Two of the largest fires, the Camp Fire in Butte County and the Woolsey Fire in Ventura, are 100 percent contained as of late November.

More than 80 people have died in the Camp Fire, according to CAL FIRE.

A full map of all current fires in California can be viewed below:


Evelyn Spence
Evelyn Spence harbors a great love for em dashes and runs on nothing but iced coffee, Jolly Ranchers and breaking news. She serves as the managing editor and can be reached at, or at @evelynrosesc on Twitter.