Sounding off about food stamp issues - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Sounding off about food stamp issues

Mary Jackson is a mother of five and relies on food stamps to feed her family. Mary Jackson is a mother of five and relies on food stamps to feed her family.
Scott County Sheriff Rick Walter says Robert Wayne Starkey admitted he bought wine with his food stamp funds. Scott County Sheriff Rick Walter says Robert Wayne Starkey admitted he bought wine with his food stamp funds.

(KFVS) - How would you feel if you gave someone money to feed their family, and they turned around and spent it on cigarettes and booze? You told us you've watched people manipulate the system and tax payer money with cash from EBT cards, commonly known as food stamps.

It's a situation that riles up plenty of people we spoke with.

"That really disgusts me," said Mary Jackson of Cape Girardeau. Jackson is a mother of five, a woman who relies on food stamps to feed her family.

"We don't receive much but it really does help," said Jackson.

She says she's using EBT benefits for the right reason, but she feels many are not.

"We try to be thrifty. But I know many people take advantage of the system," said Jackson.

She couldn't believe it in fact when we told her about 34-year-old Robert Wayne Starkey. Scott County Sheriff Rick Walter says Starkey admitted he bought wine with his food stamp funds. Walter says that was not long before Walter says Starkey got drunk, assaulted someone in Vanduser, and later tried to kick the windows out of his patrol car.

"It's not fair," said Jackson. "There are a lot of people out there that need extra benefits and can't get it."

Grocery store staff at various stores say they see plenty of people who first pay for allowed food items, then ask for cash back. Next, cashiers say they often watch those people turn right around and buy cigarettes, lottery tickets, and alcohol.

That money they get back comes from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. It's loaded on the same card used for good stamps.

While the transactions may be legal, many tax payers say it's just not right.

"I don't believe it should be allowed," said Roger Dykes.

"That money should go to help children," said Mary Richardson. "That's what EBT is meant for."

Others complained about watching people buy high dollar items instead of being thrifty, finding ways to get more money than they should technically be allowed, and trading food stamps for drugs.

As for Mary Jackson, she's upset that people are abusing something that she feels is a blessing.

"I feel like people should use the money to take care of their kids not indulge themselves," said Jackson.

Representatives with the Department of Social Security say there are many fraud prevention systems in place, however people still say they feel there needs to be more checks and balances.

Anyone who suspects TANF fraud to is urged to email DLS.ReportFraud@dss.mo.gov or call toll-free at 1-877-770-8055.

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