Food Stamps at Restaurants: Should Low-Income Users Have the Option?

As the economic crisis in America deepens and more families are pushed to the brink of desperation by grueling, enduring financial stress, few topics are as hotly debated in public and private as food stamps and their acceptable uses.

It may seem vulgar that in a time of unprecedented corporate welfare- where bailouts were handed willy-nilly to multi-billionaires through the controversial TARP deal- to nitpick what little benefit is thrown to the millions of Americans who have been pushed, teetering off the edge of the lower middle-class and into destitution- but log into Facebook any day of the week and you will find someone, somewhere complaining about the fact that the government subsidizes food for struggling families and old people.

While the scope of food stamps has traditionally been limited- the government assistance, for instance, does not purchase toilet paper, toothpaste, pet food or as Eminem pointed out, diapers- more and more options are being made available to food stamp recipients to purchase easier to buy and eat items on their limited monthly allotment. But food stamp-accepting restaurants are a relatively new idea- likely one to rankle the populace further, as the fact that “luxury” items like candy and soda are allowed for people on the assistance is an oft-cited point of rage for the anti-welfare crowd.

Louisville, Kentucky-based Yum! Brands, whose roster of stores includes Taco Bell, KFC, Long John Silver’s and Pizza Hut, has been lobbying Uncle Sam to allow their stores to accept funds allocated to low-income families through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the official name for food stamps. And while food stamp restaurants could actually save money for the government in the long run, it’s very likely such a measure will come up against intense public outcry if it moves forward.

Yum! spokesman Jonathan Blum commented on the matter, throwing the brand’s support behind the growing trend of food stamp restaurants:

“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.”

Some opponents cite concern about food choices as reason the measure should not be allowed. But advocate for the hungry Edward Cooney disagrees:

“They think going hungry is better? I’m solidly behind what Yum! is doing.”

It seems the best solution for all is to figure out what makes the most fiscal and practical sense for Americans, without worrying about whether a poor person will be encouraged to rely on SNAP longer because fried chicken is tastier than what they cook at home- if they have facilities to properly store and prepare fresh food, luxuries many SNAP recipients lack. But is America ready to accept food stamp restaurants?