A woman called the program on Tuesday to tell me she was not allowed to use her Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card to purchase one of those yummy, warm, pre-cooked rotisserie chickens from Market Basket. You know, the ones you can smell the second you get out of your car in the parking lot. Say what?

Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance issues EBT cards to provide food and economic assistance to people in need under the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Nutrition, as in healthy food. The SNAP program allows recipients to purchase nutritional foods for themselves and their families. Chicken is a good source of protein. It is nutritional food.

Judging by the cartloads of chips, soda, sugary drinks, frozen pizzas, and other crap I see rolling through the checkout line being funded by the taxpayers each week, I had my doubts about this old lady's story. So I checked it out. She is right.

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Mass Legal Services has a list of EBT dos and don'ts on its website. It's right there, as plain as day, "Hot prepared foods to be eaten on the store premises or immediately (such as rotisserie chickens) or restaurant food" cannot be purchased with an EBT card. I kid you not.

The woman said she was permitted to return to the store the following morning and purchase the chicken once it had cooled off.

So you can buy chips, pretzels, Coca-Cola, and ice cream with your EBT card, but an old lady can't purchase a warm rotisserie chicken to take home for dinner under federal government rules because it is considered a luxury item? My head hurts.

By the way, the government will increase benefits to SNAP recipients by some $36 per person per month beginning in October. Just don't dare try to buy a rotisserie chicken with it, buster!

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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