VISTA Testimonials: Food Stamps


The following is a list of testimonials of past VISTAs on their experience with Food Stamps

DASCorps serving in the Bay Area:

So I went into the ruckus of Alameda County Social Services (I say ruckus because there was a fight, but I digress) the process went very well and I even qualified for Expedited services. The woman there told me that my Americorps income didn't count necessarily but once it's in my checking or savings account it counts as liquid asset, she told me that when it's time for my second meeting to make sure my current bank statement didn't have my Americorps stipend in it or it could affect the amount I get every month. thought maybe that would help some folk out.

DASCorps serving in California:

I applied for food stamps yesterday, and it did not go well. I provided my substitute in-service letter signed by Ben to my case worker here in San Diego, and I was almost denied immediately because my monthly stipend was higher than the income allowed for food stamps. This should not make a difference because our stipends are exempt from being considered income for this type of assistance. After talking to her supervisor, she returned and grilled me asking how I supported myself in NY. I told her how I was working just below my apartment 20 hours a week at a restaurant, and food stamps were unnecessary. She said the fact that I quit my job for 'no good reason' would deny me food stamps and it create a 90-day window before I could receive them if I did happen to apply again in thirty days. She never heard of Americorps before. Her supervisor had to look it up. It was not a fun time but I'm going to try again next week. I'm guessing I should go to the state offices to re-approach this situation?

DASCorps serving in Illinois:

My experience has been less intense but equally shitty: I received a letter for my food stamps appointment on the day of the appointment ... after the scheduled time of the appointment. Also, although you apply electronically and give them yr email & phone number, they don't call or email you your appt time. No, they write you a letter. I mean, what is this, 1917? Maybe they'll alert me of my appt by Wells Fargo wagon next time!

Also, I've been calling them every day on the half-hour, and I get one of two responses:
1. A busy signal
2. "Hello, you've reached the Champaign County Department of Community Resources. Our offices are currently closed ..."

I'm going to head in there tomorrow and give them the ol' one-two. Good luck everyone. These are the Kafkian days of our lives.

DASCorps serving in Louisiana:

Applying for them wasn't that big of a deal, and it turns out that doing mine on paper and sending it in worked faster than either taking the forms in to the office itself or faxing them in, which my roommates tried to do. I got a call back within a couple of days, and after them making sure that I actually didn't make a lot of money, I received the card and had a couple of months of much better eating.

Then, I got the mid-term evaluation sort of thing, which I filled out and sent back in. They didn't like something about it, though, and sent me a letter requesting 4 of my last paycheck stubs. I looked, and unfortunately had misplaced one of the last 4, so I called to see if I could replace it with another one. After trying five different numbers, I was finally directed to my case worker, who refused to tell me over the phone if sending in a different stub would be OK, and generally seemed to question my qualifications for foodstamps. I finally just said, fine, I'll write a note explaining my situation, and sent in my last 3 stubs pluse another one.

The next month, the foodstamps didn't renew. I tried calling the office for two days, in which I either got a busy signal or transfered to a line that rang forever. I went to their website and sent them an email, just asking what was going on and what I had to do to convince them I needed foodstamps.
Within two hours, I got a call saying that my case had been reopened and the stamps would be updated the next day.

So, sorry for the length, but the moral of my story was 1: keep track of all of your paystubs! and 2: try as many different ways to get in touch with the office. I'm hoping I won't have to do it all again, but its definitely a nice addition to your income that's worth a little inconvenience. The experience has made me wonder how people actually get on and keep these benefits, especially if they don't have ready access to phones, computers, email, etc...

DASCorps serving in Fresno:

Based on experience in Fresno (which seems to run it's food stamps office better than anywhere else in CA somehow) you can send the forms back late and no one really cares. Also sending your income letter and the "this doesn't count as income" letter Ben just sent out in with your quarterly report is important. It just keeps confusion to a minimum,

The only way, I've found, to get things done at food stamps offices (in both Fresno and now Sacramento) is to come with ALL your shit (birth certificate, SS card, the income letter and the other letter Ben just sent out, proof of residency, and bank statements) ideally a half hour before the office opens and get in line (and there will be a line). Bring a book or an ipod or something to entertain yourself and hurry up and wait.

Calling or trying to email is pointless. They aren't set up to deal with it. Different story once you have a caseworker, but before then you might as well try talking to a wall.

The Fresno office took around 40 minutes to get everything done. The Sacramento office took 8+ hours over two days. Just resign yourself to a series of Job-like trials and tell your boss you'll be in when they free you.