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Thousands Wait For Food Stamps After Outages Gut Refrigerators

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(credit: CBS) Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Lots of people are still feeling the pinch of Friday’s storm, which changed the landscape of thousands of dinner tables in the Twin Cities.

Xcel Energy’s highest ever power outage spawned many unplanned refrigerator clean-outs. But in homes where food is hard to come by, the storm caused quite a situation.

At Century Plaza in Minneapolis on Wednesday, people stood in line, waiting for help to refill their refrigerators. Temperatures outside climbed into the high 80s, and inside the plaza’s halls – which aren’t air conditioned – it wasn’t much cooler.

“We’ve provided fans everywhere. We’re just trying to make sure people stay healthy while they are in line,” said Jackie Poidinger of Hennepin County’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The food stamp line for Hennepin County was an extra 3,000 people deep.

“What we did is we went into action,” Poidinger said. “We basically set up some triages. Our staff has been working effectively and efficiently each and every day.”

One working mother from south Minneapolis said she lost power for three days following the storm.

“I lost my food,” she said. “I lost my baby’s food that she needs…That’s why I’m down here today — to get my stuff back.”

And she was able to get it back.

Anybody who was on food stamps and lost food will get 50 percent of it back, but they have to wait in line and sign an affidavit, which has to be notarized.

If they lie, the penalty is $250,000 and up to 20 years in jail, or both.

It’s a system the county says seems to be working. Most people are waiting for less than two hours.

These benefits are only for people who are already receiving food stamps. The county said the last time it had to do this was after the north Minneapolis tornado.

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