A slice of pumpkin bread and a Frappuccino were purchased with an Oregon Trail Card, the state's food stamp card, last week at a Safeway grocery store in Salem, Oregon.
"It's crazy", said Jackie Fowler, the food stamp recipient who took part in the investigation for Fox 12 News. "They're overpriced as it is. That's money that somebody could be eating with - a loaf of bread, a gallon of milk."
Consumer watchdog site The Consumerist explains that federal guidelines for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) prohibit people from buying hot food or meals that are eaten inside a store. But some loopholes exist that allow recipients of the benefits to buy soft drinks, candy, cookies and ice cream.
Starbucks said that while food stamps can't be used at Starbucks standalone chains, some of its licenses with grocery stores to permit the practice.
The International Business Times obtained a full statement from Starbucks on their policy:
Starbucks, as policy, does not accept food stamp cards for payment at its Company-operated stores; however, some of our licensees, particularly those within grocery stores, may accept these for payment, the statement read.
The acceptance of these programs as a form of payment is common within the grocery industry and our licensees are committed to following all laws and rules of the individual programs. When this topic arises, Starbucks continues to communicate to our licensees that we do not recommend this practice.
While Starbucks is steering clear of food stamps, other food companies see them as a huge opportunity.
USA Today reported in September that Yum! Brands, the company that owns Taco Bell, KFC, and Pizza Hut, is lobbying congress to allow food stamps at their restaurants.
The number of Americans using the food stamp program, which was created in 1977 to help low-income families, has nearly doubled since 2007.