Most people assume that food stamps are used to buy everyday necessities at the grocery store, like bread, milk and eggs. However, one investigation in Salem, OR, revealed that Oregon Trail Cards—used in the Oregon food stamp program—can be used to buy something one would likely never expect to qualify for purchase on the program: Starbucks luxury coffees pastries.
According to the results of an investigation ran by Fox 12 in Oregon, one can actually go up to a Starbucks counter and purchase coffee concoctions and pastries with the Oregon Trail Card.
Jackie Fowler, who does have an Oregon Trail Card, assisted the Fox 12 investigation by visiting an in-store Starbucks in a Salem, OR, Safeway. Fowler was able to purchase a tall Frappuccino and a slice of pumpkin bread, totaling $5.25, with her Oregon Trail Card.
Fowler, who only made the purchase in an effort to assist the Fox 12 investigation, said she thought such purchasing was an abuse of the system.
"It's crazy," Fowler told Fox 12. "They're overpriced as it is," she continued, referring to the Starbucks drinks and pasteries. "That's money that somebody could be eating with—a loaf of bread, a gallon of milk."
However, a spokesman for the Safeway told Fox 12 that they recently began allowing customers to use their Oregon Trail Cards at the in-store Starbucks as a convenience for customers.
"We think that compliance with state laws is something we can easily do," Dan Floyd told Fox 12.
It is a grey area, at best. Federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) guidelines indicate that people cannot buy foods that will be eaten in the store or hot foods. However, “luxury items” that are allowed include soft drinks, candy, cookies, ice cream, even bakery cakes and energy drinks that have a nutrition facts label.
A spokesman for the State Department of Human Services also spoke with Fox 12 on the investigation, and indicated that he was unaware that individuals were being allowed to use their Oregon Trail Cards at some Starbucks locations, but did not specifically indicate that the practice was against the regulations, or that it would be stopped.
"We'll contact these grocery stores to get more information and make sure they're operating within the SNAP guidelines," said DHS communications director Gene Evans.