Testimony in Support of SB 973 – The Restaurant Meals Program

Date: March 4, 2024
To: Lauren Arthur, Chair, and Members of the Senate Progress and Development Committee
From: Christine Woody, Food Security Policy Manager, Empower Missouri
Re: Our support for SB 973

Founded in 1901, Empower Missouri advocates for the well-being of Missourians through civic leadership, education, and research. As part of our work, we organize a statewide coalition called the Food Security Coalition. This coalition is made up of individuals and organizations who are working to ensure every Missourian has access to healthy and nutritious food and that Missouri has a strong safety net for those who need it.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or  Food Stamps, provides  assistance in purchasing food to over 650,000 Missourians every month.  Currently, SNAP benefits can only be used to purchase food products that need to be prepared and then consumed at home. Individuals on SNAP cannot purchase hot food at the grocery store or at a restaurant with their benefits. For most, these restrictions work just fine, but for SNAP recipients who are elderly, disabled, or experiencing homelessness not being able to purchase food that is already prepared poses a real challenge. These challenges include:

  • Some participants have physical barriers to preparing food for themselves.
  • Some participants,struggle to use cooking facilities safely, 
  • Some participants lack access to cooking facilities and,
  • Some participants lack access to safe and effective food storage.

SB 973 would establish a Restaurant Meals Program within the SNAP Program. If passed, SB 973 would allow, on a very limited basis, households containing certain elderly, disabled, or homeless individuals the option, in accordance with federal law, to redeem their SNAP benefits at private establishments that contract with the Department to offer meals, including hot food and meals intended for immediate consumption. If this program was implemented in Missouri, only certain households in certain areas of the state would be eligible and those individuals would only be able to use their SNAP benefits at certain restaurants who apply to be a part of the program. Because of the regulations for SNAP users and potential restaurants this would not be a wide spread change in the program, but would truly help those individuals who qualify to access already prepared meals which they desperately need. 

 For these reasons, we ask you to please pass SB 973 out of your committee.

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