Seniors and other Americans who qualify for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits can also enroll in a special state-run program that lets you buy food at SNAP-authorized restaurants.
Under the SNAP Restaurant Meal Program, elderly, homeless and disabled SNAP recipients can purchase food at SNAP authorized restaurants using their SNAP EBT cards, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture website. Participating restaurants must offer meals at discount prices. In some cases, the program lets recipients buy food in the deli sections of participating grocery stores.
The idea is to help SNAP recipients get hot prepared foods at restaurants — something many are unable to do at grocery stores.
“We just sort of ignore the fact that there are populations that don’t have the means to prepare or store food and that literally the most poor and the most disabled among us are completely left out of our nationwide hunger assistance program,” Mohammed Aly, the executive director of the Orange County Poverty Alleviation Coalition, told USA Today.
Six states have opted into the SNAP Restaurant Meal Program. It is widely available in Arizona and California, while four other states — Maryland, Michigan, Rhode Island and Virginia — offer the program in select cities or counties. In addition, New York recently passed a law that lets state social services agencies apply to the federal program. Illinois passed the same legislation two years ago but hasn’t started a program yet.
States that want to participate must prove to the USDA that certain high-needs residents aren’t well-served by traditional food stamp benefits, according to the Sun. It is then made available to residents over 60 years old, people with disabilities, people who are homeless, and their spouses. McDonald’s and Subway are among the restaurants that participate in the program in select states.
Eligibility requirements might vary by state. For example, the Arizona Department of Economic Security said the program is available to any Nutrition Assistance household in the state if every person in the household meets one or more of the following conditions:
- Has a disability
- Is 60 years of age or older
- Is homeless and does not have a fixed or regular nighttime residence
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