Photo courtesy of Modesto Bee

Recent debate about the use of Food Stamp EBT cards could be a game changer in the world of entertainment and dining. 

A provision of the USDA's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), dating to the 1970s allows states to allow restaurants to serve disabled, elderly and homeless people. That provision countermands other rules generally prohibiting food stamp benefits from being exchanged for prepared foods. 

Now, federal lobbying records show Louisville-based Yum! Brands, whose restaurants include Taco Bell, KFC, Long John Silver's and Pizza Hut, is trying to hang its hat on that one provision and get its restaurants more involved. That's an idea anti-hunger advocates endorse, but concerns some current food stamp vendors and public health advocates.

Of course encouraging more fast-food consumption is not a great plan for bettering public health. Because of that, some will take a company like Yum! Brands to task for even suggesting consideration of their inclusion in a public program.

"They think going hungry is better?" poses Edward Cooney of the Congressional Hunger Center. "I'm solidly behind what Yum! is doing."

 U.S. Department of Agriculture records show the number of certified businesses accepting food stamps increased by thirty-three percent (156,000 to nearly 209,000) between 2005 and 2010. The number grew as vendors from convenience and dollar discount stores to gas stations and pharmacies joined the increasing entitlement program. 

Now, restaurants would like to be in that number. Only four states allow restaurants to participate. Florida being the most recent to begin a program.

The National Restaurant Association supports Yum's plan, but the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) does not. No wonder. There is a great deal of money motivation. USDA records show food stamp benefits grew from $28.5 billion to $64.7billion from 2005 to 2010. 

"If the pie's only so big, nobody's going to want to see the pie sliced thinner," said NACS spokesman Jeff Lenard. "I'm not sure that's in the best interest of public health."

We didn't considerf that NACS would side with the health issue. Nice move.

"It makes perfect sense to expand a program that's working well in California, Arizona and Michigan, enabling the homeless, elderly and disabled to purchase prepared meals with SNAP benefits in a restaurant environment," Yum! spokesman Jonathan Blum countered.

We're still waiting to hear from The Palm.


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