Massachusetts has joined seven other states in permitting restaurants and food trucks to accept payment in the form of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) aid from a select group of recipients.
In a pilot program beginning this fall, customers of 27 foodservice operations in 16 areas of the state can now pay for their meals with cash-loaded SNAP cards. But the option is limited to patrons who are members of households where everyone is either homeless, at least 60 years old or disabled. Spouses of recipients who meet those criteria can also pay for restaurant food with SNAP funds.
About 90% of the participating foodservice operations are owned by members of minority groups, and 77% are operated by women, according to the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance, the agency that manages the state’s SNAP program. The requirements for approval included having a POS system that can accept electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards, the debit cards that SNAP loads with funds and distributes.
The establishments were also chosen in part because of their pricing. The Department of Transitional Assistance said the average price of a meal for the group is about $11.
The pool of initial participating restaurants includes 24 brick-and-mortar restaurants, three of which also have a food truck, and three completely mobile operations.
Seven states in total have permitted SNAP recipients to buy restaurant meals with the aid, though two of them—Illinois and Rhode Island—only permit that option in two counties. The other five are California, Michigan, Arizona, Maryland and Virginia.
In each one, the option is available only to SNAP recipients who meet the same criteria that have been set in Massachusetts.