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Velazquez Bill Would Increase SNAP Accessibility, Help Restaurants

Velázquez Bill Would Increase SNAP Accessibility, Help Restaurants
August 18, 2020
Press Release

Washington, DC – As food insecurity increases, Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) has introduced new legislation that would allow recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to use their benefits for prepared food at area restaurants, helping tamp down hunger and providing more options for those in need.


“Restaurants in New York City and around the nation can be on the frontlines of helping battle hunger during this pandemic,” Velázquez noted. “In Chinatown, Brooklyn, Queens and every part of my district, local restaurants serve as community anchors and are ready to step up to feed their neighbors. This bill would help put restaurants and their employees to work ensuring our most vulnerable neighbors have enough to eat.”


The Mobilizing Restaurants in America Act of 2020 alters the definition of food as determined by the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 to include prepared dishes. Through this change, the Secretary of Agriculture can deem restaurants as food retailers, allowing SNAP recipients to use their benefits at any participating retailer or restaurant. This would also include frozen, prepackaged meals sold by these locations.


When we allow people to use SNAP benefits at restaurants, we’re helping countless families secure nutritious food from a trusted local source,” stated Velázquez. “At the same time, this offers the benefit of assisting many of our city’s restaurants, which have been devastated by the pandemic’s economic fallout and the closures that followed.” 


Estimates suggest that food insecurity has doubled in New York City since the beginning of the pandemic, with more than 2 million New Yorkers wondering where to obtain their next meal. Although the Agriculture Department does have a program permitting use of SNAP for prepared meals at some locations, special authorization has only been granted to Arizona and 11 counties in California.


The program is also limited in scope, only allowing the elderly, people with disabilities, and homeless individuals to purchase prepared meals at pre-approved retailers and not at restaurants. Velázquez’s bill would broaden the use of SNAP at restaurants nationally and for all categories of recipients.


A pdf of Velázquez’s bill can be found online here.