Four States; Florida, Arizona, California and Michigan have already have approved fast food restaurants for Food Stamps, or SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program). abc NEWS lists the fast food restaurants approved in these states and reports the increasing lobbying by Yum! Brands for inclusion into the SNAP program:
“…The funds allocated to the food stamp program have increased exponentially, from $28.5 billion to $64.7 billion in that same time frame, according to USA Today, and at a time when people have less money to spend, the bump in federal dollars can mean a lot to the fast-industry.
Here’s a quick list of fast food restaurants in states that already accept food stamps for restaurant meals:
Michigan:Church’s Chicken, Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonald’s, Subway, Grandma’s Famous Chicken, Eight Mile Pancake House, Mr. T’s BBQ, Vito’s Pizza
California: Jack in the Box, Subway, El Pollo Loco, Papa Murphy’s Pizza
Florida: KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Papa Murphy’s Pizza
Arizona: Domino’s Pizza, Golden Corral, Southern Cuisine, Rally’s Hamburger…”
Concern for anti-hunger and food justice advocates, nutritionists and public health professionals:
Various studies have established the link between health disparities and fast food consumption. This is especially marked in low-income communities and communities of color, who are less likely to own cars.
The seemingly contradictory scenarios of obesity and hunger is tied to: The availability of cheap calories that are not digested easily but get converted into fat, lack of fresh and healthy food (adherence to recommended fruit and vegetable consumption along with overall diet quality), and lack of recommended daily physical activity.
The impact on public health from approving SNAP benefits for fast food should be of concern to advocates of anti-hunger, food justice, and fresh and healthy food access. Some questions have to be considered in light of this development: Could there be requirements for fast food restaurants to provide only fresh and healthy food for SNAP beneficiaries? Can all fast food restaurants be excluded from the concept of sit-down restaurants? What are the legal implications of such a ruling?
Alternatives to fast food restaurants for SNAP recipients?
In order to combat hunger and provide healthy, nutritious meals for all ( including the homeless, aged and disabled; the groups targeted by the fast food chains for SNAP funding), all healthy food options should be explored. Increase in the number of food pantries, soup kitchens, farmers markets accepting SNAP benefits, ethnic restaurants that cater to culture specific food requirements, zoning restrictions for fast food restaurants, and requirements for grocery stores and supermarkets to stock healthy and fresh food have to be combined with educational and nutritional programs.
Further research required:
In order to exclude or restrict the participation of fast food restaurants from the SNAP program, the 1970s provision for restaurants to serve the homeless, aged and disabled has to be rexamined.
The approval of SNAP benefits for food at convenience and dollar discount stores, gas stations, pharmacies and restaurants has to be studied further to determine the freshness and nutritional quality of the food actually provided for the beneficiaries in these outlets.