The great majority of low-income Americans eligible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) payments can only spend them on food that must be prepared at home.
This means that they make the vast majority of their purchases at grocery stores and other retailers. However, in a few areas, SNAP recipients can also use the program to purchase hot meals at participating restaurants under the Restaurant Meals Program (RMP).
What Is Restaurant Meals Program?
According to the US Department of Agriculture, the RMP is a state option for SNAP participants who may not be able to cook meals for themselves or who lack permanent housing for storing and preparing food.
Seven states are currently involved in the SNAP Restaurant Meals Program: Arizona, California, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Rhode Island, and Virginia.
According to the National Council on Aging, SNAP participants in all other states may only spend their benefits on food intended for home preparation and consumption (NCOA). Even if purchased from a grocery shop, they cannot buy hot food at the point of sale.
For SNAP recipients to be eligible for the RMP, they must first be certified in a state that offers the program and meets one of the following requirements:
- Elderly (60 years of age or older)
- Disabled (receives disability or blindness payments or receives disability retirement benefits from a governmental agency because of a disability considered permanent)
- Spouse of a SNAP client who is eligible for the RMP
Contact the state agency in charge of administering SNAP benefits to enroll in the RMP. A valid Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card and a secret PIN are required to purchase a hot meal at an RMP site.
To be eligible for the RMP, restaurants must be located in a state that offers the program.
They must next obtain approval from the state’s SNAP administration agency and submit a signed agreement to the Food and Nutrition Service of the USDA (FNS). Lastly, the FNS must permit the establishment to receive SNAP assistance.
Each state can establish its own criteria for determining which and how many restaurants can participate in the RMP. Participating states must demonstrate to the USDA that certain persons with high needs are not adequately serviced by standard food stamp benefits.
Restaurants That Accept SNAP Benefits
The National Council on Elderly has compiled the following list of national restaurant chains that accept SNAP EBT payments in states that provide the Restaurant Meals Program (NCOA). Remember that not all RMP-state locations participate in the program.
- Burger King
- Carl’s Jr.
- Dairy Queen
- Domino’s Pizza
- Golden Corral
- Jack in the Box
- Jamba Juice
- Papa John’s
- Pizza Hut
- Taco Bell
If you are a resident of one of the states that engage in the RMP and would like additional information, please visit the USDA’s RMP website for a list of participating states and their contact information.