Walmart store food shelves emptied quickly over the weekend after a food stamp glitch occurred, once again demonstrating the perilous nature of the nation’s food supply.
The Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) system locked some low-income citizens out of their accounts, but gave others unlimited buying power for just a brief period of time. That sent thousands of people to stores nationwide in an attempt to take advantage of the computer hiccup.
As previously reported by Off The Grid News, there are now more Americans on food stamps (50 million-plus) than any other time in the history of the entitlement program. In 1975, there were just over 15 million Americans participating in the entitlement program.
Grocery stores typically only stock three days of food – that is, enough food for three days of normal shopping. When there is a run on food supplies, as happened at Walmart, food can run out in hours.
When the EBT system was undergoing a system check on Saturday, millions of food stamp recipients were unable to use their credit card-looking devices — and riots nearly occurred in a multitude of cities. A plethora of Twitter and Facebook posts complaining about the EBT cards being “turned off” hit the Internet almost immediately.
Other card users, though, learned their cards had no limit.
At several Louisiana Walmart stores, cashiers were forced to allow food stamp recipients to put literally cartloads of food on their temporary no-limit cards. Springhill Police Chief Will Lynd said the scene was “worse than any Black Friday” after being called to the store to help curtail the chaos. Once the EBT system came back online, food stamp customers quickly abandoned their carts of groceries and left the Walmart in one huge mess.
One shopper who recorded video of the frenzy on his cell phone said it was like a “tornado” had struck inside the store. Judy and Stan Garcia, also shopping inside a Louisiana Walmart when customers realized there were no limits on the EBT cards, said that purchases made above the known amounts was tantamount to theft.
A statement from the food stamps entitlement program administrators in the state read: “Anyone suspected of fraudulently using public assistance benefits are investigated and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
Meanwhile, Louisiana Walmart customers seeking to buy food for their families on Sunday were shocked when they encountered bare shelves in virtually every single store aisle. Store employees worked around the clock to put back food from the carts onto the shelves – a process that took until late Sunday afternoon. Many of the perishable items, though, were ruined.
While some citizens’ cards allowed unlimited usage, others’ cards were empty. One woman stated that a riot almost broke out at Aldi and said she was not leaving the house again until the chaos was over. Another advised her neighbors to load their guns and lock their doors. Some immediately blamed the partial government shutdown, spreading panic that the EBT cards would remain offline until Congress and President Obama came to an agreement.
The problem took place within Xerox, a vendor for the food stamp program which was conducting a “routine backup test” and experienced a power outage.
Of course, the panic that ensued is minor in comparison to what Americans would face in the wake of a man-made or natural disaster. The food stamp program is designed with a backup call-in number for retailers to use when the digital system fails – but it also was not working.
The ever-increasing number of Americans on food stamps is often called one of the primary reasons America’s national debt continues to increase.