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Fried chicken franchise stirs up controversy
MICHIGAN (NEWSCHANNEL 3) – A fried chicken franchise that’s expanding across Michigan is stirring up some controversy with its business model.
The owners of Captain Jay’s Fish and Chicken say they provide a valued service to its customers, but some, including Michigan lawmakers, feel the franchise is abusing the welfare system and wasting taxpayer dollars.
While most of the franchise locations are in Detroit, Captain Jay’s is putting down roots on the west side of the state.
“It’s very helpful because a lot of parents or single moms don’t get off work until after five,’ said mother Charmine Owens.
Owens says Captain Jay’s is helpful because while state law says EBT food dollars can’t be used to purchase prepared food, Captain Jay’s gets around that.
“It’s already ready and you just gotta put the plates down and feed the kids,” said Owens.
Captain Jay’s motto is ‘you buy it, we fry it.’ The franchise separates the cost of the fresh food, which can be paid for with EBT food dollars, from the cost to fry the food, which cannot be covered with EBT dollars.
“You can come down here and get a wholesome meal which is the same you would buy at a store off your EBT card,” said Owens, “come down here and get it already fried for a couple of bucks.
Newschannel 3 reached out to some Michigan lawmakers to get their take.
House Representative Sean McCann said “it looks like a loophole for abuse. I will be asking for an immediate explanation from DHS.”
Senator Tanya Schuitmaker says it’s more of a gray area and her biggest concern is cracking down where people are using EBT dollars to buy alcohol and tobacco.
One reason the state doesn’t want EBT food dollars spent on prepared food is so that all the money goes toward the food rather than the cooks, service and ambience, something Owens says is not an issue.
“They’re even a little lower than buying it at a grocery store,” said Owens.
And with five kids to feed, Owens should know.
“We spent $14, for 30 pieces of chicken,” said Owens.
Newschannel 3 did speak with one of the owners of Captain Jay’s on Friday. He said one of the reasons the state approves of using EBT dollars at the chain is because it is classified as a market, meaning not only can you walk out with fresh or fried chicken, but they are also required to sell some grocery items, such as milk, juice and bread.
Newschannel 3 will be reaching out the Department of Human Services ourselves for a full explanation.