In recent months, food stamp enrollment has increased across the nation as more people are struggling to make ends meet. This is one of the reasons that Costco announced in Maythat it would begin accepting food stamps. At first they were hesitant, at one point stating that they did not believe people receiving assistance would be able to pay the annual fee of $50. However, as the economy has continued to struggle, they have seen more of their current customers requesting that they accept this method of payment.
The plan has been in production for several months, as it takes time to install the software and program in the items that food stamps may be used to purchase. This is great news for people who are either current members of Costco and people who are able to gather the money for the annual fees. This is back in the news because Costco is working on getting the program up and running and hopes to have it in place in half of their locations by Thanksgiving this year.
Before Costco made this decision, they had to change their perception about who receives food stamps. An editorial in the Seattle Times points out that, “No one should presume to know what a food-stamp recipient looks like. Food stamps..are used primarily by people looking for a job, or who are employed but make so little they qualify for federal assistance.” While I agree with this, I would also like to include that a large number of people who receive SNAP benefits (Supplimental Nutrition Assistance Program, the new name for food stamps) are children, elderly, or disabled.
While doing the dollar diet project, Christopher and I debated whether or not it was “fair” in terms of our rules to make purchases at Costco. Our fees had been paid months earlier, but we had a difficult time deciding if we could do it. In the end, we bought some produce there which was the only affordable fresh produce we could purchase. By fresh, I mean not canned or frozen; it was not necessarily fresh off the farm. While the annual fee will still be a burden for many people, I hope this will make produce more available.