I’m not surprised to learn that food stamps can be used on candy. I pretty much had that detail figured out by looking at the codes on my cash register receipts.

I am surprised, however, to see signs marked so specifically in the stores. A shelf tag I saw at a drugstore this week at the Easter candy display explains that EBT – the Electronic Benefit Transfer card known as Michigan Bridge Card – can be used on “seasonal candy.”

Yes, there are rules as to what EBT can, and can’t be used on. Look up the USDA FAQ page and here is where you can find the Michigan Department of Human Resources booklet.

Candy is not specifically mentioned on those lists as allowable, but it is also not one of the prohibited items. And as I’ve noticed, if you look at your cash register receipts that code food vs. non-food products, candy gets a food code.

Now, I’ve seen a lot of nasty comments on the Internet forums about food stamp customers using their benefits towards candy and junk food. If you’re going to debate what’s a proper expense and what’s not for such an account, remember that many other legitimate “grocery” items such as soap, toilet paper and diapers aren’t allowable expenses on food stamps. It’s just how the rules currently are written.

Besides, on the Easter candy detail, how many programs and sponsors do you see adopting out Easter baskets with jelly beans and chocolate bunnies for needy kids? It does happen, but not nearly to the extent as happens at Christmas time or even with back-to-school bookbag campaigns.

So I really don’t have a problem with Easter candy being an allowable purchase, although, yes, I was surprised to see the signs in the store.

On the other hand, a lot of Michigan residents who are now on public assistance are new to these programs. They’re not the chronic poor.  They are the formerly working families who never had a reason to use these services. I’m sure the retail clerks get a lot of questions these days.

If you are new to Michigan Bridge Card, look up my archives on that topic to find out how those benefits can help your family stretch your funds.

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