How can I use my food stamps (EBT) to get groceries during coronavirus
March 17, 2020 5:23 AM   Subscribe

I need to use my food stamps but they’re not valid on delivery orders.

I get the maximum amount of stamps which is $194 a month which means that I don’t pay for my groceries at all because it covers all of it. I’m chronically ill and almost housebound and have a lot of trouble keeping enough food in the house even when I’m willing to use Uber/Lyft which I am not right now. I spend more days than not feeling like death this time of year and getting coronavirus would likely be more than I can put up with. I’m not that young and doubt my symptoms would be that mild.

I asked on Reddit and someone said ask a neighbor or put an ad on Craigslist. I don’t want to give my EBT card to some random person on Craigslist and I highly doubt that any of my neighbors have cars as it’s mostly studios and no street parking. I also highly doubt any of my neighbors would be happy to go out of their way to help if I only ask like this person suggested. They would likely act really uncomfortable if I knock on their door asking if they have a car and if they would be willing to do a massive grocery shop for me in the stores now. Even when I had friends, which I don’t anymore, when I asked for a favor I absolutely needed they would look at me like WTF don’t you have a closet friend to ask and act like I enjoyed asking rather than hating asking.

So I don’t have any friends, and no family in this country to help. There was a post on my city’s subreddit saying we should help all the elderly and vulnerable get groceries, who wants to do this. Lots of people responded they wanted to help and they have a car and I responded that I need help and can anyone help me and no one responded to me including the OP or even upvoted my post. I don’t know what to do.

I’m stressing about this every day especially when I hear stores are empty even in my city and normally I do most of my shopping at Trader Joe’s and I can’t cook anymore either so no rice and beans for me. Normally I eat a lot of their frozen meals but they are selling out of them completely and I can’t stand in long lines or handle the shopping as it is now. Even when it’s normal I have to wait for my “ best”day to go and it nearly kills me and I feel so ill for hours after I get home. And that’s when I buy about $110 worth at a time because I can’t carry much even on a best day and I still have to carry them from the Uber to my apartment which is the worst part.

I have trouble even sitting up for long most days and I’m horizontal most of every day so shopping really really takes it out of me. Anyway what can I do that’s a real possibility? I can’t afford TaskRabbit because between coming here to get my card before shopping, and lines, and perhaps an almost empty store I can’t afford it. Also EBT works for grocery delivery on Amazon works for 4 states, but not mine. What else can I do when I don’t have the money to get groceries without using my food stamps. I appreciate any suggestions you have that might be a real possibility. I live in Chicago. Thanks.
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I found a Reddit link for mutual aid signups in Chicago due to the virus, you might be able to find someone local who's willing to help either through the mutual aid signup or the CoronavirusIllinois subreddit.
posted by terretu at 5:45 AM on March 17, 2020

I asked on Reddit and someone said ask a neighbor or put an ad on Craigslist. I don’t want to give my EBT card to some random person on Craigslist.

This sounds like a time to use MeFi Jobs. Chicago is pretty well represented here, right? If you need to stay anon, maybe ask The Mods to make you an anonymous posting over there.
posted by Gotanda at 5:47 AM on March 17, 2020 [17 favorites]

I know this isn't groceries, but you sound like you might qualify for Meals on Wheels: "For individuals with disabilities under the age of 60, the HDMID program offers in-home weekday meal service for those challenged by the preparation of meals in addition to meals delivered on the six federal holidays."
posted by nirblegee at 6:02 AM on March 17, 2020 [9 favorites]

Seconding mutual aid- a lot of people want to help right now. More here (city-specific links down the page).
posted by pinochiette at 6:11 AM on March 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

My area has multiple Facebook groups now of people who are looking to volunteer to help, It might be worth poking around Facebook to see if you can find some near you. People do want to help, it's just tricky to organise without existing communities.
posted by stillnocturnal at 6:24 AM on March 17, 2020

My church (not near you) is collecting names of people who need help and people who can help. There may be churches local to you that will be willing to help out even if you aren't a parishioner. Churches are all over the place in terms of how much practical help they give. When a distant elderly relative of mine needed help, I was told that Mormon churches consider themselves obligated to help everyone in their area regardless of membership (though this may put you on the missionary visit list). My church is Catholic, and they are definitely looking to assist people.

I would also suggest reposting where you've posted already and stressing that you haven't heard from anyone. People could just assume that surely someone has answered you by now.
posted by FencingGal at 6:41 AM on March 17, 2020 [3 favorites]

If you want to try asking the people in your building but don't want to put them on the spot/see their reactions, maybe you could put a sign up near the entrance asking for their help.

I don't know the culture on your city's subreddit but if the above suggestions don't work, you could start a post specifically about helping you, or one where anyone who needs help can post so that helpers can connect with them. Crosslink the new post with the one where everyone was eager to volunteer in theory for a bit of shaming effect.

(You mentioned rice and beans. I hear you about not being able to cook, but if the main problem is standing or lifting heavy pots then I'll add this on the off chance that it's helpful: you can make rice, legumes (ideally lentils, they cook faster than beans), and grains in an oven in disposable aluminum pans. You pour them plus water into the pan, cover with some aluminum foil, put them in on high for an hour or two depending on your oven, and after they're done you can mix in oil, sauces, or seasoning if you want. If you have a regular oven you can fit a bunch of pans in at once and cook a week or two's worth with very little time on your feet - around 5 minutes if you're filling a few pans, which you can stagger. Using disposable pans means no dishes.)
posted by trig at 6:42 AM on March 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

So, I know you said that delivery won't work. But, just in case it's been awhile or in case there is a different store that can deliver to you. Here's a page on which stores deliver and accept stamps. You might also call up your local grocery and see if they do delivery and see if they will accept. It's possible given the strange things right now that a store that didn't accept EBT on delivery orders is doing so now.
posted by amanda at 7:33 AM on March 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

If you have Nextdoor, have a look on there. My local one has many postings of people offering to run errands for neighbors. I wish you luck, I’m sorry this is so stressful.
posted by JenMarie at 8:15 AM on March 17, 2020 [3 favorites]

Of the stores on the list linked by amanda, Safeway is the one that has locations in Chicago, offers home delivery, and accepts food stamps (bold-face added by me):
Safeway has been approved for the USDA’s Online Purchasing Pilot but has not yet launched their program to allow all EBT cardholders to use their EBT card online for the purchase of food for delivery. However, it seems as though Safeway is offering their home grocery delivery service to select EBT cardholders.

Safeway states that “any person with a disability who uses EBT benefits and needs to use Safeway home grocery delivery service, please call 1-877-505-4040 or email us at”

If you meet the conditions Safeway has stated above, please give them a call at the number listed above. We will update you when Safeway begins offering online purchases to all EBT cardholders.
I know what it's like to be stuck in your house. I've had a recurring vision problem that has made it a nightmare to do errands all winter. I hope something works out for you. Virtual hugs if you want them.
posted by virago at 8:38 AM on March 17, 2020 [4 favorites]

This is also a service covered by HBCS (home based community services) either through the state or the IDOA, waiver depending on your age. Application for IDOA is relatively fast but is likely delayed due to safety concerns, but persons with disability waiver can take a loooong time. Either way, you should apply for these things for the future. They help with lots of different activities including grociery shopping.

Catholic Charities runs a runs a bunch of programs, and there is a senior helpline for Chicago that may be able to direct you to an organization putting things together.

Keep reaching out, there is help.
posted by AlexiaSky at 8:40 AM on March 17, 2020

What ward do you live in? As far as I know many/most Aldermen are focusing on covid-19 response right now, including connecting folks with mutual aid networks and community groups providing aid. I would call or email your Alderman’s ward office to see what assistance they can provide. So sorry to hear what you’re going through!
posted by cimton at 9:37 AM on March 17, 2020 [3 favorites]

Can you do Walmart or other grocery service where they shop for you and you pick up bagged groceries? Call the market you shop at,ask them to help you figure it out.
posted by theora55 at 11:07 AM on March 17, 2020

Your ward office is a good resource; I know my alderman is hard at work connecting people. If you want to memail me I am also in Chicago and will do what I can to help.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 1:24 PM on March 17, 2020

Chicago Meals on Wheels is another resource you might want to investigate.
posted by peakcomm at 4:53 PM on March 17, 2020

Hello friend! Does your Walmart deliver groceries for people on food stamps? Mine does. I hurt my foot recently and was in a cast. I was able to have everything delivered via Walmart and I only had to cover the delivery fee. I would double check to see if they deliver. If you already checked this I'm sorry; I just thought I'd put it out there.
posted by Amy93 at 5:46 PM on March 17, 2020

TaskRabbit could work - make your "pickup-delivery" purchase online then have someone from TaskRabbit pick it up and deliver it to you.
posted by bendy at 6:07 PM on March 17, 2020

Sorry! Didn't read the whole question!
posted by bendy at 6:09 PM on March 17, 2020

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