Costco and Food Stamps: A Good Neighbor Policy

Guest Editorial by Viveca Diaz

Why is Costco moving into non-middle income neighborhoods like East Harlem when they don’t accept food stamps? They want to live on the land of the people, but they don’t want people of the land who receive federal assistance to purchase food from their stores.

Box-box stores built in disadvantaged communities catering only to middle-income shoppers sure sounds like gentrification (not to mention segregation) to me.

Rather than snubbing lower-income residents in East Harlem, Costco should seize the opportunity to improve its corporate reputation by reversing its antiquated policy on food stamps.

In exchange for permission to make late-night deliveries, Costco is offering 2,000 free memberships to the East Harlem community. Seems like a great offer except for the fact that: (1) memberships are based on income, (2) the free memberships would only be good for two years and, (3) the free memberships will be based on a lottery system (to be overseen by supporters of this raw deal).

So let’s get this straight: Costco’s lease is for 30 years but neighborhood residents are only being offered a limited number of free two-year memberships? Seems a bit unfair, doesn’t it?

Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the amount of food stamps an individual or families receives will be increased by up to 13%.

Given that none of those families fall into the middle-income bracket that make up the majority of Costco members, I suspect that the company will soon reconsider their food stamps policy.

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