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Wednesday, June 23, 2004
Call ‘em “Food Cards”

By Steven Taylor @ 6:41 am

This took a while. I know that there have been electronic benefits cards in Alabama for at least six years, and probably over ten in Texas (where it is called a �Lone Star Card�):
Electronic Cards Replace Coupons for Food Stamps

The Bush administration announced Tuesday that it had completed one of the biggest changes in the history of the food stamp program, replacing paper coupons with electronic benefits and debit cards.

At the same time, the administration said it wanted to rename the program because the term “food stamps” had become an anachronism. It is inviting the public to suggest how to update the name of a program that became a permanent part of the government, and the nation’s vocabulary, during Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society era.

Electronic benefits have replaced food stamp coupons in all states, and more than half the states now issue electronic benefits in place of welfare checks as well. In addition, some states are using debit cards for Medicaid and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.

OF course, I have mixed emotions on the stigma-removal aspect of this. One wonders to the degree to which recipients are in true need, or simply use the food stamps as a means of supplementing other purchases they would have to forgo if they actually had to pay for their groceries.

Not to generalize from anecdotal evidence, but any times I have watched people buy groceries with food stamps/food cards only to then pay cash for tobacco products. Further, early in my married life there were many a time when the person in line with me paying with food stamps was buying nicer stuff (better meat, brand names, etc.) than I was because I was trying to economize.

It is a flawed system at best.

Filed under: US Politics
  • Outside the Beltway linked with Electronic Cards Replace Coupons for Food Stamps
  • Accidental Verbosity linked with Getting Carded

Click here to go to the main page.


  1. I worked at the now-defunct Delchamps grocery chain as a cashier while in high school. You do not know how many times someone would argue and actually threaten me because I would not let them buy beer or cigarettes with food stamps.

    Comment by mark — Wednesday, June 23, 2004 @ 8:23 am

  2. This article is a little misleading. The feds have been migrating to e-cards for many years. In fact, most fed benfits are now done this way, and have been so for some time. This is not as easy as it may sound either. There are huge issues with the electonic cash transfer systems, bank participation, point-of-sale systems, merchant participation. I could go on. Bottom line, though, is these programs save the states and the federal govt a great deal of money over time, and reduce fraud and abuse.

    Comment by Chris — Wednesday, June 23, 2004 @ 8:44 am

  3. “This article is a little misleading…”

    How so? I don’t think anything in the article text or Steven’s critique was misleading about the fraud-prevention issue, or the hurdles to be overcome in migrating to such a program.

    Comment by Tom — Wednesday, June 23, 2004 @ 9:03 am

  4. Regarding Steven’s anecdotal evidence…

    Not to generalize myself, but many of the people who qualify for these programs just don’t get it. It may be that you merely observed the traits that put these people into poverty in the first place.

    For many, cigarettes and beer will always play a major role, whether or not their groceries are subsidized. If they have to forego buying milk for a few days, they’ll just do that.

    Comment by Tom — Wednesday, June 23, 2004 @ 9:14 am

  5. I guess I was wrong to say “misleading.” These are important modernization programs we should all support. That’s all.

    Comment by chris — Wednesday, June 23, 2004 @ 9:21 am

  6. Tom,

    This is certainly the case, and I suppose, part of my point. I am not especially fond of the fact that program helps to encourage/fund the bevahior that placed them in poverty/keeps them in poverty.

    Comment by Steven — Wednesday, June 23, 2004 @ 10:06 am

  7. The thing I appreciate about the EBT card is that the buyer no longer gets change back.

    During the old coupon days, it wasn’t uncommon (while working as a cashier) to see a handfull of kids come in and buy 1 piece of gum a piece, trot the change out to mom, who then came in the buy smokes.

    You couldn’t deny the use of a coupon a piece for gum (although that’s another issue altogether - candy as food).

    With the EBT card it runs just like a debit card but with no cash back option. So much money is put into the account on a monthly basis and either used or not. A 2 cent piece of gum subtracts 2 cents from the account, leaving no 98cent return from a dollar coupon.

    Comment by cbk — Wednesday, June 23, 2004 @ 1:08 pm

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