Family of 5 goes without while waiting on food stamps

July 24, 2013 3:16:58 PM PDT
Statewide computer problems have left a local mom and her four kids foraging for food. When she was told she would have to tough it out on her own, for months, she reached out to me.

Mother Akele Cannady said she is going without food, just so that she can feed her four daughters.

"I've just been trying to make it stretch. That's why I don't eat. Cause I'll be taking away from them if I do eat," Akele said.

Akele works full-time at N.C. State during the school year as a cashier, but she is out of work during the summer.

"It's kinda hard just trying to get by. I only get $80 in unemployment, and my daughters can eat that up in two days," she said.

Akele said she had to send three of the girls to live with their father because she doesn't have the means to feed them.

She was getting her monthly food benefits each month, until it was time for her recertification in June. She received confirmation from Wake County that they had all her information, but she never got her July food stamps.

"I don't know what I did wrong. You know, I did everything I can to make sure my information was in in a timely manner and I don't really know what to do. At this point, I'm just trying to make it and stay strong for my girls because my girls need me," Akele said.

Akele even showed me emails she sent to her case worker in an attempt to get some answers.

"I have never spoken to her. All I get is her voicemail. I've even called her supervisor. I've called the person over her supervisor. No one is emailing, no one's returning phone calls," she said.

Akele is not alone. I've heard from others in the same waiting game.

I reached out to Wake County to get answers and a rep with social services said the new statewide system, known as NC FAST, is experiencing delays in processing benefits as staff members learn to use the new system. She added that in Wake County it may take six to eight months after the conversion of the active cases for the program to run as it should.

When it comes to Akele, the rep told me her situation was resolved, but when she checked her EBT card, she still had not received her benefits.

On Wednesday, Akele finally received her benefits and she is now able to go shopping to buy food.

We also surprised Akele with more good news on Wednesday. The Raleigh Professional Fire Fighters Association heard about Akele's struggle and wanted to help. A rep with the association, Mark Kelling went to her house and gave Akele a gift card to a local grocery store.

"This is just one story that touched our hearts and we felt like we could reach out and help her. Unfortunately, we can't do this for everyone, we would love to be able to, and hopefully some of the other charities and organizations can step up, and if everyone helps one person, the world is a much better place," Mark said.

Akele told Mark she is thankful for the association's help, and she will use the card to buy diapers and food for her family.

But there are still others not as lucky. The rep with social services said they have taken several steps to help those who are waiting. Those steps include staff working overtime since October to learn the new system, along with hiring temporary staff to process the claims.

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