SNAP Restaurant Meals Program: South Dakota Passes Bill

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South Dakota passed a bill that would allow some residents to use their food-assistance benefits to buy prepared meals, South Dakota Public Broadcasting reported.

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The bill, SB 149, is not an expansion of the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program or electronic benefits transfer, but an additional use of current funds for elderly, disabled and homeless individuals and families who may be unable to prepare or store their own food, according to a statement on bill sponsor Jessica Castleberry’s website.

“The elderly with arthritis too severe to hold a knife, the disabled with limitations on how much they can lift, and the homeless who lack homes with full working kitchens — we ignore the fact that there are populations that don’t have the means to prepare or store food,” Castleberry said, according to SDPB. “Literally the poorest and most disabled among us are completely left out of our nationwide hunger assistance program.”

SNAP is the largest federal nutrition assistance program, providing benefits to eligible low-income individuals and families via an EBT card that enables beneficiaries to purchase eligible food in authorized retail food stores.

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However, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the program, says that an EBT card can’t be used at restaurants or to purchase hot food or food intended for immediate consumption unless your state participates in the SNAP Restaurant Meals Program that serves the elderly, disabled and/or homeless, and you are part of this target population, according to the department’s website. Otherwise, restaurants are not eligible to participate in SNAP.  Under the RMP, participating restaurants must offer meals at concessional prices, the department says. 

Castleberry said that the restaurant program can benefit both SNAP recipients and local businesses, according to SDPB.

However, some are against the bill, including the Department of Social Services and the South Dakota Retailers Association. Detractors say there’s insufficient data regarding the impact and outcomes of restaurant programs in other states, and they argue that the program will be burdensome to launch and administer since it requires coordination between the state, federal government and businesses that want to opt in, SDPB reported.

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