SNAP card shoppers can’t stretch their dollars - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

SNAP card shoppers can`t stretch their dollars with monthly allotment

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Some retailers in Illinois say it's time to change the federal government's new food stamp program back to the way it was.

Shoppers like getting the card, but grocery store owners say when funds are added to accounts, it's creating a headache for them.

One shopper we spoke to didn't want to be identified. She and her two children get $350 a month from SNAP, the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps.

"It's like, I'm always out of food," she says. "I had to borrow $35 dollars from my father to get some food in the house."

The time they get those cards reloaded is creating a couple of problems. Two million people in Illinois depend on SNAP. The federal program helps low-income individuals and families, mostly living in Chicago's food deserts, make healthy choices.

"Right now, the federal government only permits one issuance per month and that makes it very difficult for people to properly budget because they're getting their card loaded once a month," President of Illinois Food Retailers, Brian Jordan, explains.

Depending on the amount of people living in a house and where the house is located, benefits on average range from $200 to $700 each month.

"Illinois has done something that no other state has done," General Counsel Retailer's Tanya Triche says. "What they've done is take it from 23 days to the first 10 days of distribution. No other state has gone the other direction of what the USDA is recommending."

Families say that's a problem because within weeks, they're broke and the cabinets are bare.

"I get my SNAP card on the sixth of every month and by the time the holidays come around, I don't have no way to go shopping," a shopper explains.

"It ain't been too difficult," SNAP shopper Florence Harris adds. "You have to make a list and stick to it. It's been very reasonable for me and my kids."

But for people who need help, state workers offer programs to help SNAP shoppers learn to budget better and to get the most bang for their federal bucks.

There's another problem. At the beginning of every month, there's a rush at some stores for fresh produce, meat and dairy products.

At a Fairplay store at 47th and Halsted, 82 percent of the shoppers use their SNAP card to pay for groceries. While workers try to keep store shelves stocked, the owners say it's difficult to do and there's an even bigger challenge when shoppers aren't coming in.

"At the end of the month, the last two weeks of the month we're suffering," Fairplay owner Mike Kozlowski explains. "Our employees here at Fairplay are suffering because they're not able to get the hours they need."

One shopper we saw walking the aisles of the store at the beginning of this story, checked out with three carts of food. She spent her entire SNAP card of $400 and she wonders if all of the groceries will last the rest of the month.

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