Costco to begin accepting food stamps

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Millions of New Yorkers and Americans on food stamps now have access to affordable, healthy food – just in time for Thanksgiving.

Because of Costco’s plan to accept food stamps nationwide, many Americans are now able to eat healthier for less.

Ever since City Councilmember Eric Gioia lived on the benefit for a week in 2007, he has been a leading supporter in changing Costco’s food stamp policy. He met with CEO James Sinegal in 2007 and late 2008, and in May of this year, Costco began accepting food stamps in Brooklyn and Queens. Due to the success, Costco expects half of its 410 stores to accept the benefit by Thanksgiving.

“This is a big victory for the millions of Americans who use food stamps, and Costco deserves a lot of credit for helping food stamp recipients in tough economic times,” said Gioia.

Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger – a non-profit umbrella group for the 1,200 soup kitchens and food pantries in New York City – is grateful for the progress and the effort Gioia has made over these past two years.

“It’s amazing that one person can help millions of people,” said Berg. “Not only is it important economically, but in the message it sends … everyone needs the lowest prices they can get, and for food recipients to get the lowest prices and extra food funding is important.”

Berg also found the new policy to be an “incredibly positive development in a time where our economy is at its worst.”

In New York City, the enrollment for food stamp benefits increased by 354,000 from January 2008 to August 2009 – the largest increase since the 1970s.