Yum! Brands, which owns fast food chains KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and Long John Silver's, is lobbying the government to be allowed to take SNAP benefits. SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) is more commonly referred to as the food stamp program.
The group has already filed documents with the government to be included in the program, which currently has a stipulation against using food stamps for prepared foods. Yum! Brands is lobbying their case based on the fact that an increasing number of other types of stores, like convenience stores and pharmacies, have been approved to accept food stamps in the last few years.
How would Yum! Brands win approval to accept food stamps?
Thanks to a stipulation laid out by the USDA in the 1970s, individual states, and in some cases even individual counties, would have to approve Yum! Brands' proposal. Theoretically, while the company could successfully argue its case with some states, it might still fail overall by not managing to sway the decisions of others. Any state that does want to allow restaurants to accept food stamps has to submit an application for approval through the USDA.
Are there exceptions to the current "no prepared foods" stipulation?
Yes. The government as a whole made an exception through the SNAP program for states to decide whether or not the homeless, disabled, and elderly would be allowed to use food stamps for restaurants. A few states have approved that exception, citing the difficulty of those groups in being able to prepare meals as their main motivation in the decision. Yum! Brands is lobbying under that exception.
What states currently accept, or are considering accepting, food stamps for restaurants?
Four states currently accept food stamps from the above-named groups at restaurants. Michigan, Arizona, and California were the first to approve the measure, with Florida following quickly behind, due to the push from anti-hunger groups.
Oklahoma is currently looking at the possibility of approving the idea as well, as is Rhode Island. Both face opposition from medical professionals and other health-conscious groups, who cite the danger of feeding into America's obesity epidemic by allowing more people access to potentially unhealthy fast food.
Why the push from fast food to be allowed to accept food stamps?
Easy answer--money. While Yum! Brands is officially pushing for approval due to the company's stated concern for the ability of the elderly and disabled to get a hot meal, the fact of the matter is that SNAP benefits are increasingly big business. The number of people receiving SNAP benefits has skyrocketed in the last six years as the economy has languished. Some $64.7 billion in SNAP benefits were distributed last year alone. Compare that to the $28.5 billion in SNAP benefits that were distributed in 2005, and one can see why Yum! Brands is pushing for approval.
Vanessa Evans is a musician and freelance writer based in Michigan, with a lifelong interest in health and nutrition issues.