A Big Box Finally Matches the Bodega

Last Wednesday the discount wholesaler Costco ended its stand-off with New York City community leaders by agreeing to accept food stamps at two of its city stores. The row got kickstarted nearly two years ago when a Queens city councilman, Eric Gioia, began to lobby Costco to accept food stamps. After all, other similar stores like Sam’s Club already accepted food stamps. So did Whole Foods, the local farmers’ markets and even many corner stores. Other council members and activists jumped into the fray. If your local bodega could make it happen, why couldn’t Costco?

According to Gioia’s office, Costco was worried about a couple of issues, namely that they would have to acquire new equipment to accept food stamps and that people on food stamps weren’t likely to shop at Costco. But the New York Times City Room blog dissected and dismissed most of those arguments. But Costco wouldn’t budge.

Until now. Costco will test the food stamp access and demand at stores in Astoria, Queens and Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Both are areas with high concentrations of people enrolled in the food stamp program. In a statement, the company’s CEO, Jim Sinegal, gave the economy as a reason for their change of heart. “We are mindful that many of our fellow citizens are facing unprecedented economic challenges at this time, and it seemed to us that it was worth reconsidering our position in that light,” he said.

But people who use food stamps aren’t just people who live in projects or live on Supplemental Security Income. As the economic crisis deepens, more and more people are searching for ways to make their money stretch a little further. Close to 1.4 million New Yorkers are enrolled in the food stamp program, also called the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program and the city is facing increasing demand. Check out this site for the history of food stamp programs. And go here to find out if you are eligible for food stamps.

Tags: new york, jori lewis, queens, whole foods, food stamps, sunset park, costco, eric gioia