Local News

Food Stamp Recipients Seek Help After Winter Storm

Posted December 11, 2002 4:23 a.m. EST

— Power outages caused a lot of food to spoil last week. After Hurricane Fran, the state allowed people to get emergency food stamps without a lot of problems, but officials said there was a lot of fraud. This time, recipients have to jump through more hoops to get their food stamps replaced.

The ice storm hit many people hard, but some had more to lose than others. Food stamp recipients who lost their food said they are desperate for help.

"I was without power for four days, so I lost a lot of food because of it," food stamp recipient Jasmine Hollenback said.

"Anything in the refrigerator like mayonnaise and milk, it all spoiled, so we had to throw it out. If it even looked remotely funny, we threw it out anyway," food stamp recipient Elizabeth Lester said.

More than 300 people lined up at Wake County Human Services Wednesday to get replacement food stamps.

"This is not a disaster food stamp program," said Dean Simpson of Wake County Human Services.

Unlike Hurricane Fran, not just anyone can get new stamps. They must be current food stamp recipients. They must apply in person within 10 days of the storm. They fill out and sign an affidavit explaining exactly what they lost. Officials said the goal is to prevent fraud.

"What we want to do is to take the extra time to talk with them and make them understand that the information they're giving us is true and in fact what actually happened," Simpson said.

When people come to get food stamps, they are not actually getting pieces of paper. They get an EBT card, which is used like a debit card at the grocery store.

"I think it's good. I think it's going to help people out that need help," Lester said.

"Right now, I barely have anything in my refrigerator. I have one pack of chicken left in my refrigerator, so I really need this," Hollenback said.

The Department of Health and Human Services said there has been a big increase in the number of people using food stamps in the last year. Officials said as of August 2002, there were more than 253,581 people using food stamps statewide. Officials also said 12,261 people in Wake County are using food stamps, 6,356 in Durham County and 1,905 in Orange County.