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Michigan to change its food stamp distribution policy in 2011

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Michigan will spread out its food stamp distributions throughout the month beginning Jan. 4, 2011

Michigan residents who rely on food stamps will see some changes beginning in January.

Michigan's 1.9 million food stamp recipients get their benefits in lump sum at the beginning of the month. Most food stamp purchases are made at that time, which can lead to long lines at the checkout counter and a shortage of fresh produce at some stores.

"We know that we’re going to be busier those days, so we typically have more staff in the store," says Joe Gappy, manager at Gigante Prince Valley Supermercado in southwest Detroit.

Beginning January 4th, Michigan will spread its food stamp distributions throughout the month. That means some recipients will receive their lump sum benefits on the 5th of the month, for example, others on the 19th.  Click here to see a chart detailing date changes for food assistance benefits.

Joe Gappy is happy about the change:

"Instead of me having a full parking lot, having a full amount of staff and stacking overtime hours, I no longer have to deal with that because now it’ll be more consistent throughout the period of the month."

Gappy says he'll also now be able to spread his produce purchases throughout the month. Gappy says none of his customers have asked him personally about the food stamp changes, but that his coworkers have explained it to people who have had questions, and they "have posters posted throughout our store talking about what’s going to happen. The food stamp program has given us posters to talk to people about it."

The Michigan Grocers association says this about the changes:

The Food Bank Council of Michigan is prepared to provide extra help to minimize any difficulties and eliminate gaps in service for food assistance clients during this transition. Please direct anyone needing extra help to the Food Bank Council: (800) 552-4483. When the transition is complete we should see Bridge Card users gain greater access to fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy products, and more. And retailers should be better able to cope with the ebb and flow of Bridge Card purchases each month.

Jennifer is a reporter for Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project, which looks at kids from low-income families and what it takes to get them ahead. She previously covered arts and culture for the station, and was one of the lead reporters on the award-winning education series Rebuilding Detroit Schools. Prior to working at Michigan Radio, Jennifer lived in New York where she was a producer at WFUV, an NPR station in the Bronx.
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