My son called me, furious.
“I was just in line at the grocery store, and the girl in front of me had all this food and paid for it with an EBT card,” he told me.
“Okay,” I said, trying to calm him down. “You’ve lived here all your life--you know that’s normal in L.A.”
“Yeah, but her boyfriend was in line right behind her and he had beer and all kinds of alcohol and then he got cigarettes and they paid for it with their EBT cash card after they got all their food!” he yelled. “I saved all week to buy my stupid groceries. I clipped coupons to save a few bucks, bought off-brand things and then I ended up paying for all of their food and their party stuff, too!”
I didn’t know what to say because basically he was right.
The public relations makeover for the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card is not only changing the entire system, it’s also taking away the last bit of “good shame” (the type you feel when you’d rather not be doing something) previously associated with using food stamps.
The EBT card looks like any other ATM or credit card:
And in California, you’re not only allowed to use your EBT cards at almost any fast-food restaurant, they actually seem to encourage it with large signs in their windows, billboards and advertisements. It’s simply no big deal anymore. You just swipe your card and there’s your food.
(By the way, why isn’t Michelle Obama all over this “free junk food” thing? But I digress…)
The easy-to-use EBT card has, of course, already had its share of abuses.