An unsolicited commentary on food stamps

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Steve Knox
Monday, September 24, 2012

It was a quiet night at the grocery store and there was only one checkout lane open. Rather than getting antsy and waiting for another one to open up I just pulled out my phone and went through the news of the day. The person in front of me had a heaping cart of food so I knew it would take a while.

About 5 minutes passed, I looked up and it was my turn. As I pulled up there seemed to be tension between the checker and bagger. I didn't say anything at first but after about 30 seconds I asked if everything was alright. What I received was unsolicited commentary on what they saw on a daily basis that they called 'abuse'. It was all about food stamps or 'EBT cards'. I had no idea what EBT was until that night.

They started sharing stories of carts of energy drinks rolling down the checkout. They shared stories of buying food and other 'stuff' on the 'EBT' card, then folks heading to the local gas station to selling the stuff in the parking lot for cash. They mentioned food stamp EBT cards being offered for sale on Facebook and other social media sites. They mentioned cash back that is allowed and is handed over.

I did mention that these folks originally qualified for these cards so there must be a need. They agreed but their frustrations are the 'wants' that they see sliding down the checkout. The stuff that is a luxury to many middle class families, yet some food stamp recipients eventually take for granted.

I asked about W.I.C. and my understanding of the program that recipients qualify for certain items within a certain timeframe. Both the cashier and bagger shook their head in agreement that W.I.C. works well. It takes them a tad longer to check those customers out with the vouchers but they stated that program is very clear. Food stamps and the card appears to be a free-for-all.

Until that grocery store visit a few weeks ago I thought there were regulations on the program. Apparently, there are many loopholes and that many take advantage of the loopholes based on those that deal with the cards on a daily basis.

In these times I think there is definitely a need for programs. Other organizations like ECHO and church food banks are stretched to their limits. Honestly, I never considered that people would take advantage of the food stamp program, but if there is 'abuse' as mentioned by the folks behind the counter I think something needs to be done.

Are you aware of EBT abuse?

Last updated: 10:41 am Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Steve Knox was born and raised in Janesville before landing back in the city later in life. This Generation X guy writes on Janesville and beyond. Steve is a community blogger and is not a part of The Gazette staff. His opinion is not necessarily that of the The Gazette staff or management.

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