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Food Stamps at Fast Food Restaurants
One of the most basic rules of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), better known by its old name, Food Stamps, is that you cannot buy hot prepared food with SNAP benefits.
However, in Phoenix, and in other cities around the United States, there are a small number of people who may be qualified to use their SNAP benefits at participating restaurants.
As a matter of fact, there are some states where all food stamp recipients can purchase restaurant food with SNAP benefits. However, this hub focuses on the pilot programs in Phoenix and three other cities.
As expected, recipients of the nutritional government aid program are hoping that the new rule will be extended to all, and restaurants cannot wait to finally get a piece of the pie…especially since current estimates show that more than 45 million people receive this form of government aid..
But. . . also as expected, this new rule is causing a huge controversy all around the country with thousands of people asking and wondering. . . "Should people be allowed to use food stamps at restaurants?"
Where is it Allowed?
Currently, there are four states that offer the program: Arizona, California, Florida, and Michigan.
In these states, the pilot program will allow people who cannot cook their own food to use their SNAP benefits at restaurants.
YUM Brands, Inc., the gigantic company behind such restaurants as Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC, and Wing Street, is currently the largest supporter of the push to make their hot, prepared fast food available to everyon with an EBT card.
Who is Eligible?
As I mentioned earlier, the pilot program is available to people who, for one reason or another, cannot cook for himself or herself, or for whom it is difficult to cook.
Homeless people, disabled people, and some senior citizens are allowed to use their food stamps at restaurants.
Think about how difficult it must be for a homeless person to try to find ways to cook for themselves. Also, what if a person has a disability or is too feeble to be able to cook independently?
Apparently, the program has proven to be a huge asset for the group of people it targets...but what about all other SNAP benefit recipients?
What is the Controversy?
Currently, there are two schools of thought for the opposition of food stamps in fast food restaurants. There is a nutritional argument, and there is a privilege argument (Yes, really...)
Obesity, diabetes, and heart disease can be directly linked to overconsumption of fast food. If you have ever watched Supersize Me you know that the constant consumption (30 days) of McDonalds food caused irreversible damage to the health of the host of the show.
Some people believe that it is irresponsible for the government to fund a program that allows easier access to fatty and salty fast foods.
If you think about it, their position makes good sense. . . but then, we all know (or at least we all should know) that too much government control is a slippery slope
Then there are a group of people who believe that the purchase of fast food should only be allowed to those people who can “afford it.”
Their basic argument is that a trip to a fast food restaurant is a privilege that only people with jobs and money should be able to enjoy.
This argument is weak and ridiculous, and it makes the proponents of the argument seem silly and an incredibly petty.
In a news article, one woman actually had the nerve to say, “I don’t want to have to sit in a restaurant next to people who get to use food stamps to buy their meals when I had to work hard to earn the money that I spend on my meals.”
The fact is that many working adults are eligible for SNAP benefits, these are the people who do not earn a living wage, and they work just as hard as anyone else (and probably harder, because low wage jobs usually require manual labor).
This line of thinking is so wrong on so many levels, but it all boils down to the fact that certain people will always look down on people who are poor. No one takes this argument seriously.
Dr. Linda Vaughn, director of the School of Nutrition and Health at Arizona State University (ASU) says that even though fast food restaurants are adding healthier items to their menu, their food is still less than nutritious.
The Arizona Department of Economic Security (AZ DES) concedes that the program is not perfect, but they do not want to tell people what they can eat (slippery slope).
Furthermore, AZ DES cautions that food stamps will not go far if they are being used constantly at fast food restaurants, so eligible participants should spend wisely and keep an eye on their EBT card receipts in order to keep tabs on their balance.