Beginning in March, a change to Delaware's Food Supplement Program (FSP) will spread out the monthly distribution of food benefits that help to feed more than 153,000 Delawareans over 15 days instead of the current seven days.
The change will allow grocery stores more time to restock their shelves with fresh and nutritious foods. It also will help clients and grocery stores to avoid long checkout lines.
Currently, food benefits are uploaded to clients' electronic benefits transfer (EBT) cards between the fifth and the 11th of each month. The benefits tend to be spent quickly once they are received. Beginning March 2, the distribution of food benefits will be spread out between the second and the 16th of each month, based on the last letter of the primary card holder's last name.
"This change will result in better service for our Food Supplement Program clients and a better selection of fresh and healthy foods at the stores where they shop," said Rita Landgraf, Secretary of the Department of Health and Social Services. The Food Supplement Program is administered by DHSS' Division of Social Services. "We will work with our clients and the grocery stores to alleviate any concerns as we phase in the new plan in March."
Elaine Archangelo, Director of the Division of Social Services, said the change is supported by the Delaware Food Industry Council. "By adding more issuance dates, grocers will be able to adequately stock fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy and shelf-stable goods. The change also will help DHSS better serve customers because it will ease heightened call days and spread those calls out over a longer period of time."
The Delaware Food Industry Council said the change will allow them to better manage inventories and staffing in their grocery stores. "This is a great example of government and private industry working together on a solution," said Julie Miro Wenger, Executive Director of the Delaware Food Industry Council. "By alleviating the rush of customers from one concentrated time during the month, customers will be better served with more variety and more items in stock. Plus retailers will be able to staff more consistently throughout the month. It will be a win-win for the customers and retailers."
To help clients make the transition, the Division of Social Services sent out a mass mailing to all clients in December, put up posters detailing the changes in all Social Services offices and some grocery stores, updated the DSS website, contacted several community partners, and will play an informational message on DSS phones for all incoming calls from mid-February to the end of March.
If clients have questions or concerns about the change, they can call the Division's Customer Service Line at (800) 372-2022. To help clients who might run out of food benefits before arriving at their new issuance date in March, the Division of Social Services has notified more than 85 food banks and DHSS' 15 State Service Centers statewide of the change and possible increase in food requests.
Page 2 of 2 - In Delaware, 153,739 clients in 72,178 households receive monthly food benefits, totaling $19.59 million. The average client benefit was $127.42 for January 2013. About half of the clients are children. Food benefits provide a substantial economic impact, increasing the Gross Domestic Product by $1.79 for each food benefit dollar spent. In other words, every $5 in food benefits generates as much as $9 of economic activity.
The Food Supplement Program is Delaware's name for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. SNAP is paid for with federal revenues, but administered by the states.
"We are confident that extending the issuance cycle supports better service for our clients, other store customers and the retailers," Archangelo said.
Beginning in March, the plan will be phased in over a two-week period using the following schedule:
A = 2nd of month
B = 3rd of month
C = 4th of month
D = 5th of month
E, F = 6th of month
G = 7th of month
H = 8th of month
I-J = 9th of month
K-L = 10th of month
M = 11th of month
N, O, P = 12th of month
Q-R = 13th of month
S = 14th of month
T, U, V = 15th of month
W, X, Y, Z = 16th of month
For more information about the Food Supplement Program, go to http://dhss.delaware.gov/dhss/dss/, or contact Michele Twilley at 255-9606.