Fast food restaurants want a slice of Food Stamp pie

Published: Sep. 7, 2011 at 6:19 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 7, 2011 at 6:17 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - For years people have used food stamps, or EBT cards in grocery stores, but now restaurants across the country are trying to get a piece of the pie. Restaurants in Arizona, California, Florida and Michigan are already accepting EBT cards for food but South Carolina has yet to follow suit.

Is it a good idea to allow those receiving aid to be able to use it on restaurants?

The Department of Agriculture calls it SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, but for decades it's been referred to as Food Stamps.
But no matter what you call it, the USDA reported 15 percent of nation's population is now receiving its benefits. That's a whopping 45,000,000 people. And now restaurants are calling for a piece of the pie.

"It'll help out," says one Lowcountry resident that wanted to remain unknown. "It'll definitely help out. What if they in a rush or something and you have to go to work? You can just go to the window and get a double cheese burger with your EBT card."

But for every yes, there's a no.

"I whole heartedly disagree with that," says Cheryl Newman-Whaley, a West Ashley resident.

She says the prospect of adding restaurants to cater to those with food stamps is going overboard.

"To go to a restaurant that's a want, a desire," says Newman-Whaley. "The benefit is to buy healthy so you can feed your family and feed yourself healthy. Going to a restaurant most likely is not going to do that."

Outside of traditional food stores, Papa Murphy's pizza accepts EBT cards in the Lowcountry. But they're not a restaurant. They are classified as a specialty grocery and the operate according to their "take and bake" motto where customers buy a fresh to order pizza that they have to prepare at home.

"We look at EBT as a good opportunity for people to get a better product than they can at a grocery store," says the store's owner. "Our [EBT] customers are very positive about our brand. They love our quality and they love the value they provide them."

Here in Charleston, 23,000 households are in the SNAP program. This month alone, 48,000 people are collecting $6 million in aid money and restaurants want to cash in.

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