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Thursday, September 8, 2011


Debate Stirs Over Fast Food Restaurants Taking Food Stamps


Debate Stirs Over Fast Food Restaurants Taking Food Stamps

Natasha Chen

5:58 PM CDT, September 7, 2011




(Memphis 9/7/2011) Fast food chains may be lobbying to allow more of them to be able to accept food stamps, or now known as SNAP, supplemental nutrition assistance program.

USA Today reports federal documents show Yum! Brands, which owns Taco Bell, KFC, Long John Silver’s and Pizza Hut, is lobbying to expand the restaurant meal program.

Currently, four states have allowed certain restaurants to accept SNAP benefits, and Puerto Rico is going through a pilot program.

If other places were to participate too, a law from the 1970’s states the local entity, like a county and/or state, would have to approve the restaurants as part of the program.

Even so, only certain SNAP recipients can be eligible to get their food from a restaurant: the homeless, elderly and disabled.

The idea is to help most recipients make their dollar go further by buying food at grocery stores to cook at home. But the homeless who have no kitchen, or the elderly and disabled who cannot cook for themselves, would be allowed to use their benefits at restaurants where local governments have approved that.

Marcia Wells, the vice president of communications at the Mid-South Food Bank, said it’s a tough call.

“You are not going to be able to get as much food for your money as if you go to the grocery store, or the farmer’s market or some place like that and buy food that you prepare at home,” she said.

On the other hand, “For them, maybe this is one way to deal with it. Because this way at least they can get a hot meal.”

Fast food customers in South Memphis had different opinions on whether SNAP benefits should be used on tacos or buckets of chicken.

“It’s not right,” said Manuel Esquivel. “We aren’t supposed to pay for that. No, no. Our taxes are not supposed to be paying for that.”

Even though he eats fast food, he also prepares balanced meals at home. He agrees buying food at a grocery store to cook gets you much more for your dollar than buying fast food for all meals.

But Jamicheal Humes, who eats fast food often, said it’s a great idea.

“It helps people out with low-budget money, you know. People who can’t really afford to eat out who want to eat out,” he said.

Humes said people should be allowed to buy whatever food they want.

Wells, who often goes to distribution centers for the Mid-South Food Bank, said people who don’t know where their next meal comes from are generally savvy about what foods are good for them.

At one distribution in Raleigh, Wells said, “the woman doing the orientation said, ‘we have fresh produce today!’ And they cheered. I mean, they went ‘yay!’ and they had bananas and lettuce.”

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