Bill would allow food stamps to be used at restaurants in Illinois

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(KFVS) - A new bill is in front of Illinois lawmakers that could allow certain food stamp recipients to use their SNAP benefits at restaurants that opt into the Restaurant Meals Program, according to the general assembly website.

The proposed bill would mean food stamps could be used for fast food.

The bill is HB 3343 and was passed in the State House in March. Supporters have been quoted saying the bill is meant to help people on food stamps get better access to hot food. It would apply to the elderly, the disabled, and the homeless who qualify.

Some local health experts worry this could lead to unhealthy choices, however.

Cynthia York-Camden, a dietitian for Fresenius Medical Care, says people who use food stamps tend to have unhealthier diets because financial difficulties limit their food options.

“Normally their options are less healthy, like processed foods and canned goods," she said. "Because you’re just trying to find the cheapest foods.”

She did highlight that food stamps can be used to buy fruits, vegetables, and other fresh groceries, but seasonal changes raise prices.

“They’ll go up to like $2 a green pepper,” she said. "You think you’re gonna buy that on food stamps?”

York-Camden hopes that if this bill passes, the options people will be able to choose from will be healthier ones.

People in the Heartland do have some more options to get healthy food, like at the Murphysboro Food Pantry, that serves all of Jackson County.

“We restock our produce daily, but we purchase produce once a week," said director Megan Austin. “Thankfully we have a pantry that can offer them that because that’s just ensuring that many more families can be raised on wholesome foods.”

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