Five Things To Know About…the Restaurant Meals Program Bill

May 25, 2021

Five Things To Know About…the Restaurant Meals Program Bill

On May 24, the New York State Assembly passed the Restaurant Meals Program Act (S64/A01524), a bill that would establish a statewide restaurant meals program as part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Here are five things to know about the Restaurant Meals Program.

1) What is the Restaurant Meals Program?

SNAP benefits usually can only be used to purchase non-prepared grocery items and seeds, not hot food. The Restaurant Meals Program (RMP), which is authorized by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and run at the state level, is an initiative that allows low-income households with seniors, disabled and/or homeless members to use SNAP benefits to buy discounted meals from authorized restaurants. Currently several states, including California, Arizona and Rhode Island, participate in the RMP.

2) Who can receive meals through the RMP?

The RMP is available only for low-income households with senior, disabled, or homeless members. These vulnerable populations regularly struggle to access food and are traditionally harder to reach with nutrition benefits; many also often lack access to a kitchen or struggle to cook for themselves. The RMP would allow these participants to use their SNAP benefits for a discounted meal prepared by a local restaurant.

3) Can people use SNAP for food at any restaurant?

They cannot. Restaurants must apply and become certified before becoming authorized vendors. And while recipients can purchase whatever they’d like from an authorized restaurant, these restaurants are required to offer specially discounted options for SNAP recipients in order to participate. In states that already have this program up and running, authorized restaurants have included both national chains and locally owned restaurants, helping make sure meals are easily available to those who need them.

4) What are the other benefits?

The COVID-19 pandemic left economic devastation in its wake. As more New Yorkers struggle to regularly access food, the Restaurant Meals Program would provide a new option to support them during this devastating time. It also represents a smart policy for the state at a time when governmental resources have been stretched thin by the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, the RMP would provide much-needed economic support to restaurants which have struggled throughout the pandemic.

5) So…what happens next?

The bill to establish the RMP in New York passed the State Senate with bipartisan support on 5/4/21, then passed the Assembly on 5/24/21. It now heads back to the Senate, which has until the end of the year to send the bill to the Governor’s desk.

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About No Kid Hungry

No child should go hungry in America. But in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, 1 in 5 kids in New York could face hunger. No Kid Hungry New York is working to end childhood hunger by helping launch and improve programs that give all kids the healthy food they need to thrive. This is a problem we know how to solve. No Kid Hungry New York is a campaign of Share Our Strength, an organization committed to ending hunger and poverty. Join us at NoKidHungry.org