Food stamps glitch sends more hungry to soup kitchen
Posted August 9, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — It’s 11 a.m. outside the Shepherd's Table Food Kitchen in downtown Raleigh.
That means it's time for everyone outside to head in for a meal.
“It’s hard to see anybody come in and need a free meal,” said Ashley DeLappe, assistant director at the food kitchen. “We know that a lot of people aren’t here by choice.”
Shepherd’s Table is typically busier at the end of the month, when many people who receive food stamps have run out of the benefit.
But the kitchen directors have noticed a change this month, with more clients coming in during the first week of August. They think the upswing has to do with problems with a new state computer system called NC FAST, or Families Accessing Services through Technology. The software was supposed to streamline social services, but officials have acknowledged that glitches have prevented some residents from receiving their food stamp allotment on time.
“This month has been different with the food stamp glitch,” DeLappe said. “It’s the second week of the month, and we’ve served over 300 people every day this week.”
A spokesman with the state Department of Health and Human Services said each county is going through a learning curve in the transition to NC FAST, and the state is working to provide more training and fix problems.
“DHSS continues to work closely with all 100 counties to implement the new NC FAST system, which this week has paid about $38 million in Food Nutrition Services to 150,000 individuals and families on time," spokesman Ricky Diaz said in a statement. "We are concerned that some clients are experiencing delays, and are working around the clock with county offices to ensure that applications are processed quickly and accurately.”
Officials at Wake County Social Services said the department has hired temporary workers to fast-track cases that are farthest behind.
Ashley Bunn, who is pregnant, said she hasn't received food stamps since June. She came to Shepherd’s Table for a meal.
“I want the state to go ahead and get the show on the road,” she said. “People need their food stamps. People got kids to feed.”
Bruce Purvis, who also ate at the kitchen Friday, said he also hasn’t received food stamps since June.
“Maybe they should speed it up a little bit,” he said of the state’s efforts to solve the problems. “I understand their system, but it’s taking a very long time.”
Added Bunn, “It’s really tough. I usually wouldn’t have to come down here this much.”