New Yorkers May Use SNAP Food Stamps at Restaurants Under New Program

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New Yorkers dealing with food insecurity will soon be able to use their SNAP food stamps at restaurants or delis around that city, with reduced and more affordable prices, following the adoption of a new program approved by Gov. Kathy Hochul.

Under the Restaurant Meals Program (RMP), SNAP food stamps beneficiaries would have choices of claiming cooked, warm, healthy, and delicious meals from participating restaurants. Before this program, many of the beneficiaries could only use the food stamps at grocery stores, so they would have to prepare the meals themselves. Such an option has limited the disabled, elderly, or homeless beneficiaries since they do not have any means to cook their meals.

Hochul's approval, however, will not be in effect until the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance has received a green light from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). A spokesperson for the department said they want states implementing RMP to focus on the vulnerable members of the community, such as the disabled, elderly or homeless. 

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What is the Restaurant Meals Program?

Currently, states like Arizona, California, and Rhode Island have active RMP for SNAP food stamps beneficiaries, so those without a kitchen to cook their food would be able to buy discounted and ready-to-eat meals at restaurants. New York has activated the program to help restaurants under the governor's $25 million recovery program for food business owners.

This means that participating restaurants will receive funding from the government to provide warm meals to SNAP beneficiaries. The businesses will have to apply and receive certification before becoming authorized vendors. The state of New York will be updating which restaurants will join the initiative under its Restaurant Resiliency Program.

SNAP food stamps beneficiaries, however, won't have to drop in at the restaurants for the food as these will be collected and delivered by state-run food banks. Part of the budget of this program has been turned over to the Food Bank of Central New York, which will handle the logistics of ensuring that vulnerable recipients will have their meals every day.

Meal choices are varied in the states that have successfully run the RMP. They include national food chains as well as local businesses. According to the USDA, at least 3,054 restaurants participated in 2020.

SNAP Food Stamps Increase in October

Meanwhile, the Biden administration has approved a permanent increase to the SNAP benefits beginning October 2021. After a temporary 15 percent boost in the middle of the pandemic, recipients will soon get an average of monthly food stamps amounting to $157 per person.

According to Forbes, the permanent revamp in the SNAP food stamps program comes as seven percent of U.S. households said they still struggle to source out their meals as of August 2021, despite other stimulus programs from the government. At least nine percent of families with more than one child also struggle with food insecurity.

"Ensuring low-income families have access to a healthy diet helps prevent disease, supports children in the classroom, reduces health care costs, and more," USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said. He added that the permanent increase would also create more jobs as more families will have extra to spend on food.

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