Restaurants Want to Be Allowed to Accept Food Stamps

On September 9, 2011, in Restaurant News, by Maggie Ernst

More U.S. restaurants are saying that they want to be able to accept food stamps distributed under USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), according to a USA Today report this week. The number of businesses certified by SNAP to accept food stamps rose from 156,000 to nearly 209,000 from 2005 to 2010.  In the same time period, food stamp benefits increased from $28.5 billion to $64.7 billion, according to USDA. Now, restaurants that did not typically participate in the program are lobbying to be included.

Federal rules generally prohibit food stamp benefits from being exchanged for prepared foods.  However, a provision dating to the 1970s allows states to let restaurants serve disabled, elderly, and homeless people.  Arizona, California, Florida, and Michigan now allow use of food stamps at restaurants.

Louisville-based Yum! Brands, which includes Taco Bell, KFC, Long-John Silver’s, and Pizza Hut, is working to get restaurants more involved, according to lobbying records.

The National Restaurant Association supports the effort by Yum! but the National Association of Convenience Stores does not.   Kelly Brownell, director of Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, said encouraging more fast-food consumption is not good for people’s health.  “They think going hungry is better?” Edward Cooney of the Congressional Hunger Center said in response.  “I’m solidly behind what Yum! is doing.”