By Jonathan Ellis and Megan Luther, USA Today
The number of businesses approved to accept food stamps grew by a third from 2005 to 2010, U.S. Department of Agriculture records show, as vendors from convenience and dollar discount stores to gas stations and pharmacies increasingly joined the growing entitlement program.
Now, restaurants, which typically have not participated in the program, are lobbying for a piece of the action.
Louisville-based Yum! Brands, whose restaurants include Taco Bell, KFC, Long John Silver's and Pizza Hut, is trying to get restaurants more involved, federal lobbying records show.
That's a prospect that anti-hunger advocates welcome, but one that worries some current food stamp vendors and public health advocates.
Federal rules generally prohibit food stamp benefits, which are distributed under the USDA's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), from being exchanged for prepared foods. Yet a provision dating to the 1970s allows states to allow restaurants to serve disabled, elderly and homeless people, USDA spokeswoman Jean Daniel said.
Between 2005 and 2010, the number of businesses certified in the SNAP program went from about 156,000 to nearly 209,000, according to USDA data.
Food stamp use surges
Food stamp benefits, (in billions):
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture
There is big money at stake. USDA records show food stamp benefits swelled from $28.5 billion to $64.7billion in that period.