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More Retailers, Restaurants Say Yes To EBT Cards, Food Stamps

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Restaurant Meals Program gives homeless, elderly and disabled beneficiaries a leg up

By Chris Levister –

At this Shell gas station on the corner of Waterman Avenue and Orange Show Road in San Bernardino, motorists can fill up, drink up, get a car wash with cash and credit cards and now buy bread, cereal, sandwiches, candy, chips and even frozen pizzas with food stamps.

At a growing number of area restaurant locations including Domino’s Pizza and El Pollo Loco some food stamps beneficiaries can get a hot prepared meal.

More local businesses are accepting EBT cards-food stamps, as a record number of consumers are turning to government aid to pay for groceries.

EBT stands for Electronic Benefits Transfer. It's a debit card for food stamps.

Shell Food Mart manager Oscar Ortiz says the number of low income residents in his community has been steadily increasing.

“A lot of people are feeling the effects of the recession. People who’ve never been on government assistance come in and ask if we accept food stamps and EBT cards. This is helping the community as well as us,” he said.

Typically people think food stamps are used for staple items like milk and bread and while generally they are, the item list is expanding to include things like candy, chips and pre-packaged sandwiches which can be microwaved in the store.

Since June of 2009, places like WalMart, Costco, Target, 7-Eleven, The Dollar Store and various convenience stores around the area have been accepting EBT cards. Drug retailers Walgreen and CVS accept EBT cards.

Sam’s Club is also offering its members another way to purchase products.

Officials said because of the current economic environment, they will start accepting EBT cards at some stores. Now some restaurants are rushing to cash in because the demand is growing.

Until now it's been a struggle to use food stamps at restaurants, but that’s changing under a program called Restaurant Meals.

The program allows homeless, elderly (age 60 or over), and disabled beneficiaries to use food stamp benefits to purchase certain ‘health choice’ prepared meals using Golden State Advantage (EBT) card at participating restaurants.

Last month Patricia Davis, who is homeless, reluctantly applied for food stamps after losing her job as a hotel housekeeper.

“I had to do what was best for my 3 kids,” she said. But until now she said most restaurants thumbed their noses at food stamps. Under the state’s evolving Restaurants Meals program Davis and her kids can have at least one hot meal a day.

Lydia Erviti oversees Restaurant Meals, which includes more than 500 restaurants.

“Our goal is to provide healthy meals for the homeless, disabled and elderly participants, especially the homeless because they don't have space to store food or cook.”

Restaurant Meals is also paying off for those on the cooking end. Joe Stein is the head of Strategy and Innovation for El Pollo Loco: “We wouldn't be surprised if the EBT revenue growth for company and franchise stores was over $2 million. From something that just started in August 09, that's a pretty good size growth.”

Good enough to interest other chains in joining the program like Pizza Hut and Burger King. But food stamps still won't get you a Big Mac or Chicken McNuggets. Not yet anyway. That's OK with Davis.

“I think fast food restaurants are finally waking up to the obesity crisis. You can now find a lot of health choices on their menus. With my blood pressure and my diabetics, I try to avoid eating too much salt and greasy food. That’s what makes this a good deal.”

For now she's sticking with grilled chicken and a side salad.

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0 # Guest 2011-10-09 18:50
not sure why i was censored the word is 'shoes',,,in response to #1.. i have worked aerospace 28 years i have paid into the system should i not be allowed to get a helping hand when i need it in this date and time....not until you wear my shoes buddy
-2 # Guest 2011-10-09 18:47
in response to #1.. i have worked aerospace 28 years i have paid into the system hould i not be aloowed to get a helping hand when i need it in this date and time....nit until you wear my shoes buddy...
+4 # Guest 2011-05-30 08:02
Idiots, we live in a structured system, meaning every citizen is a tax payer homeless or not. So its not just your tax money. And you should focus more on more minor things tax money is spent on then helping to keep the people if our nation healthy and growing
+8 # Guest 2010-10-29 00:33

Your comment about "it is money that the taxpayer cannot spend on their own family" implies that people who utilize food stamps do not pay taxes. I believe it is important to recognize that recieving public assistance and working and paying taxes are not mutally exclusion. There are many people who work full-time and are not able to support themselves, those people are classified as the working poor. The minimum wage is no longer a livable wage in quite a few locale across the nation for example Los Angeles, New York City, Seattle ect.
-13 # Guest 2010-10-28 18:06
When somebody uses their EBT card they are NOT just another customer using a credit card. They are getting fed with money that somebody else had to expend a part of their life earning. It is a means tested program and that is welfare, pure and simple, no matter what pretty sounding name they put on it. Just one more of society's burdens getting a free ride on the back of a taxpayer who had to earn the money. And it is money that the taxpayer cannot spend on their own family.

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