EBT Accepted at Local Fast Food Restaurants
For many, being able to use an EBT card at a fast food restaurant may sound like a bad idea. However, the issue requires just a little bit of background. EBT cards are a vehicle for both SNAP and Cash Assistance benefits. So while EBT cards are accepted, not all types of assistance are.
Still, it’s a controversial issue.
“Whereas I agree that people need assistance, I don’t agree that you need assistance at a Burger King,” said Katerina Deragon of Southwick.
According to a representative for Burger King, the state revised its guidelines, now allowing restaurants to use cash assistance. The people we spoke to didn’t think it was a good use of tax-payer dollars.
“To be able to go out and get junk food, even to go to the store people buying cigarettes and stuff like that. I think all of that should be put under some kind of regulation because it’s just not fair,” Miguel Perez of Holyoke told us.
While EBT cards are accepted, SNAP benefits are not. SNAP is a federal program and any retailer accepting SNAP needs to be approved by the USDA. In addition, SNAP cannot be used on any prepared foods whether that’s a Whopper or a rotisserie chicken from your local market. Cash Assistance can be used on many things, not just food.
But the Department of Transitional Assistance is trying to encourage those using benefits to make healthier choices when it comes to food. In 2012 they conducted a Healthy Incentive Pilot Program in Hampden County. Randomly selected SNAP households were able to earn 30 cents for every SNAP dollar spent on targeted fruits and vegetables. While these programs are top of mind for the Department of Transitional Assistance, there are still skeptics out there.
“Sometimes I think we have too many programs. Sometimes I think that the ability to make your own smart decisions should come from your brain and not an assistance program,” Deragon said.
Perez isn’t sure it will help either. “There’s some people that the information goes through one ear and out the other and they’re out there at McDonald’s or buying cigarettes with their welfare benefits. I just think that’s totally wrong.”
Last summer the Department of Transitional Assistance worked with state and local officials on a farmers market tour to promote healthy eating and the use of SNAP and Cash Assistance at these locations. They plan to continue that work this spring with mobile farmer’s markets to help reach clients that may face challenges when looking for healthy alternatives.
We reached out to the Department of Transitional Assistance Friday for their insight but were unable to get an official comment from the Commissioner.