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EBT card for Valentine's Day candybouquet?

8:30 PM, Feb 15, 2014   |    comments
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JASPER, Ga. -- Strip joints, casinos and liquor stores - our Center for Investigative Action exposed how your tax dollars for needy children were being cashed out in these places using EBT cards.

It resulted in new legislation to restrict their use and many of our viewers have since been on the lookout for potential misuse of the cards.  A viewer tipped us off about concerns over Kroger encouraging people to use EBT cards to Valentine's Day gifts.

"Well shame on the people who did this. This is wrong," responded Georgia Senator, John Albers (R- Roswell).

EBT, or Electronic Benefit Transfer, is a card that works like a debit card. Think of it like electronic food stamps. The money comes from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program through the USDA

|Click here to see eligible food items| 

"Use your EBT card," 11Alive reporter, Ross McLaughlin noted looking at a candy bouquet. 

A Hershey's bar bouquet. The price - $19.99.   It was being promoted at Kroger in Jasper.  It wasn't the first time we've seen it.

"Alright let's go check it out."

It was two years ago at a Roswell Kroger where we found Valentine's candy bouquets being advertised for sale using EBT. Kroger apologized at that time. Since then, rules have been clarified by the federal government.

The food items in holiday gift baskets must account for at least 50 percent of the purchase price otherwise they are NOT eligible.

"Clearly, there's a disparity but let me go one step further, it should be 100% food this is EBT. It is to help people who are hungry and it shouldn't be candy bars either, it should be good nutritious food that will help them. That's the reason the program exists," Albers added.

It's supposed to be about the food. The Hershey's bouquet, with tax, costs $20.59. For that, you get six chocolate bars and a couple handfuls of wrapped candies.

"Yup, same size, buy two get one free,"McLaughlin observed.

You could walk over to the candy section and get the same six Hershey bars for $3.67, including tax. 

"This is the one I grabbed and there's candy in there," noted 11Alive producer, Shawn Hoder.

Is the little bit of candy in the vase worth the $16 difference? And should EBT be used?

A  Kroger spokesperson responded with this statement:

"We are very disappointed to learn that EBT stickers had been posted on candy bouquets at our Jasper location, and we appreciate you bringing this to our attention again. That is not in keeping with our practices and procedures, and we've taken immediate steps to remove the stickers. We will continue to reiterate our procedures with floral attendants."

Glynn Jenkins
Director, Communications and Public Relations
Kroger (Atlanta Division)

We contacted Georgia's Department of Human Services about the issue and were sent this response:

We ask that anyone that suspects fraud, waste, or abuse regarding the use of EBT cards to report it to our OIG Hotline at 1-877-423-4746. 

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