Big changes start later this week for people who rely on food stamps. You may have to wait a few more days to get your benefits.
The first of the month is usually a busy time at the grocery store. Often the shelves are cleaned out because all 445,000 low income Virginians who rely on food stamps get their money for the month at the same time.
That's about to change. Soon SNAP - the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - will switch to staggered payments throughout the month.
"We want to make sure there's adequate stock and make sure grocers can keep their stock up, especially fruits and vegetables," said Tom Steinhauser with the Department of Social Services.
Some people will still get food money on the first of the month. Others will get it on the fourth, seventh or ninth day of the month. The date depends on the case number. That means some people will have to take the food they have now and stretch it for a few more days as the new schedule starts.
"We don't want them to go to the store, get a cart load of food, and not have any benefits," he said.
This year Richmond started running buses for people who live in "food deserts" - places where there is little to no access to fresh foods. Richmond's Shoppers Shuttle will now run on the second and ninth of every month as well as the third Saturday every month.
Virginia is one of only nine states that issue SNAP benefits once a month.
The number of people needing food stamps has gone up 90 percent since the economy tanked in 2007 - making the rush for food at the beginning of the month a problem too big to ignore.
For more information about the schedule changes, you can call the Department of Social Services at 800-552-3431.
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