When people are signed up for financial aid the monthly cash allotment goes on the card along with the food stamp amount.So the card holds two accounts one for monies and the other for food stamps.When a person on assistance goes to the cashier and swipes their card it can make a withdrawal from their money account then they can purchase food with their food stamp account.
The ones here in Texas look like this...
Here in CA you can essentially 'cash out' your food stamp card for cash to buy drugs or booze.
Isn't that nice?
We even have non-food stores with big signs that say they take the cards for hard goods.
Food stamps are a state thing, so different states may have different cards.
Kansas is the only state I know many details about regarding foodstamps because I worked in a grocery store there during college a couple years ago.
In Kansas, people can get a "cash" portion on their foodstamp card if they qualify, in addition the "foodstamp" portion. They can buy non-foodstamp items with it, and can also just get cash off of it.