Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Food stamp ramp-up

January 7, 2009

STORM-IKE/Family Dollar is seeing more consumers buy food at its stores.  It is also seeing more consumers use food stamps amid the recession. 

It would seem like a winning opportunity for Family Dollar to attract more shoppers with its low prices.  There’s just one hitch - less than half of the company’s stores currently accept food stamps. 

The food stamp program, now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, has its roots in a program started in 1939 to help families during the Great Depression.  During the current recession, it is getting more use.  According to data cited by Family Dollar CEO Howard Levine during a call on Wednesday, an estimated 14 million households relied on food stamps in September, up about 17 percent from a year earlier.

Still, many of those households cannot use their stamps at Family Dollar, so the discount chain is speeding up its roll-out of technology that lets it accept food stamps, as well as credit cards.  At the end of November, about 3,000 Family Dollar stores accepted food stamps and credit cards, Levine said.  Most stores already accept debit cards.  Expect to see the right technology in place in about 75 percent of Family Dollar’s stores by August, when its fiscal year ends, and in nearly all of its more than 6,600 stores a year from now.

Family Dollar did not say how much the technology upgrades cost, though the company did hint that they were higher than $5,000 per store.

(Reuters photo of shoppers leaving a Family Dollar store in Houston that was operating by generator and accepting cash only as the area recovered following Hurricane Ike in Sept. 2008)


Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Food Stamps are no longer called “Food Stamps”. They are SNAP benefits. All states have been using Electronic Benefits Tranfer (EBT) cards for at least 4 years. Food Stamps is an archaic term that no longer has any relevance to the Public Assistance Supplemental Nutrition program. This has been a huge cost savings to the program as “change” is no longer given. All of the benefits issued go for food. I would like to be able to say that fraud no longer exists in the program, but it does, just not in the same was as it was when stamps were issued. I am not familiar with Family Food here in the north, but in order to accept the benefits, they would have to have a card reading terminal such as for credit and debit cards.

Posted by Trudy Hoehne | Report as abusive

Does any one else get a little irritated about these “public assistance” programs put on by the government? Granted there are those out there that need charity from time to time, but the drawbacks to government mandated programs is that it becomes a crutch and encourages people to lean on these program far longer than they really need to. And a “mandatory charity” in the form of my tax dollars feeding someone else is a huge contridiction. Since when has charity ever been mandatory? Rather than kid ourselves and call it a “public assistance program” lets call it the “Robin Hood” program. Take from those who work and give to those who don’t.

Posted by David S. | Report as abusive

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