It's an interesting question. Should recipients of Food Stamps be allowed to spend those government-provided coupons (taxpayer dollars) at restaurants?
(And those are 2010 numbers, the 2011 price tag is guaranteed to be higher.)
The official government definition about Food Stamps states:
The food stamp program helps low-income people buy food.
Simple enough. If you are having trouble paying for food to feed yourself and your family, the government is there to help. But questions remain, should recipients of food stamps be told where they can spend this "money" and on what?
The federal government pays for food stamps, but the programs are managed on a state level, with restrictions placed at the local level. Each state is allowed to place restrictions on what kind of purchases can be made using government support. Items like tobacco, alcohol and in some cases - sodas and junk foods are forbidden. Most states have managed to block restaurant use of food stamps by excluding the purchase of "hot food."
The four states (California, Florida, Michigan, & Arizona) permitting food stamp use in restaurants have all mentioned that it was done to help the elderly, disabled and homeless people. (This is an exception allowed by the few rules imposed by the federal government.)
USA Today reported that the National Restaurant Association is lobbying for food stamps to be accepted, and why not? In difficult economic times, the substantial spike in food stamp dollars represents a considerable market for restaurants.
We encourage you to participate in our survey on Food Stamps and their use.