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A State Pilot Program Seeks Applications From Food Trucks and Restaurants to Allow Snap Sales

A state pilot program that will allow local restaurants and food trucks to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits is looking for applicants, with officials urging prepared-food retailers to join a community effort that will benefit multiple people.

“This program will help stimulate our economy while also providing good-quality meals to those with disabilities and families with older adults over 60,” Alex Guardiola, vice president of government affairs and public policy at the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, said in announcing a roundtable discussion about the program on Monday.

SNAP benefits, formerly known as food stamps, are distributed by the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance and allow recipients to pay for food with a debit card.

However, according to Brittany Mangini, associate commissioner of Food Security and Nutrition Programs at the DTA, the benefits do not include prepared meals.

This can be difficult for SNAP recipients who have limited mobility, do not have a home or space to prepare or store food, or are unable to cook for themselves due to physical disabilities, according to Mangini and Guardiola.

Approximately 29 per cent of SNAP recipients are over the age of 60, and approximately 21 per cent have a disability, with one in every seven people in the Commonwealth participating in SNAP.


The pilot Restaurant Meals Program aims to address these issues while also providing restaurants and prepared food establishments such as food trucks with access to the SNAP market.

However, participating prepared food establishments must meet certain requirements.

These include the fact that they are privately and locally owned; that they offer a reduced-price meal on their menu — for example, a daily special, an early-bird special, a value menu, or a loyalty program — that is available to all customers; and that they offer counter-based service and payment so that the SNAP recipient, rather than a server, can punch in their PIN when they pay for the meal.

There is no cost to participate in the program, and the state, not the food establishment, determines whether a person is eligible to use SNAP benefits for their meal. SNAP benefits can be used for any meal on the menu.

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Restaurateurs at the roundtable on Monday had several questions about the program, and Mangini responded that it was still in the works and that the US Department of Agriculture needed to confirm some details.

However, she stated that SNAP benefits could not be used to purchase alcohol or to pay tips. She also stated that she believed restaurants with handheld payment systems would be eligible as long as customers could enter their own PINs.

She went on to say that most point-of-sale systems used by restaurants could accommodate the program, but that the USDA would work with participants to set up the necessary technical requirements.

The application period is open until August 31, and the program hopes to be operational by November.

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