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Fast Food Chains Demand Approval of Food Stamps

Taco Bell and other chains ask the government if customers can use food stamps at their restaurants

09-11-2011

With 45 million Americans on food stamps (aka EBT) right now, it’s no surprise when a few days ago fast food restaurants made a plea to allow food stamps to be used at their restaurants. Yum! Brands (Taco Bell, KFC, Pizza Hut and Long John Silver’s) think they should be allowed to service hungry folks with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) program, but so far the response has been polarized.

Anti-hunger advocates are on board with the potential addition of fast food restaurants (because, yunno, why should anyone go hungry when they don’t have to?), but public health officials are against it, even though food stamps already allow people to purchase sugary sodas and junk foods like potato chips. Food stamps currently exclude people from buying prepared or hot foods from markets, and fast food definitely falls into that category.

One argument anti-hungry advocates could make is the growth of food deserts in urban neighborhoods. Because of a dearth of grocery stores in certain neighborhoods, some residents’ health might suffer greatly. Fast food isn’t a solution to these food deserts, but at least the hungry wouldn’t have to worry about how they’d get to a market to even use their food stamps. They could just wander over to their local Taco Bell and have a hot meal.   

From 2005-2010, food benefits jumped from $28 billion to $64 billion. According to the USDA, in the same span the number of businesses certified with SNAP increased from 156,000 to 209,000. More businesses are being approved, which leads to more competition between markets and stores. The outlook isn’t completely bleak for fast food restaurants, though. A few restaurants in four states (Florida, California, Arizona and Michigan) accept food stamps and so does Target, 7-Eleven and CVS. The war on hunger continues, but at least there’s more access to food outlets than ever before.  



by: Garin Pirnia