Michigan has seen a 1,200-percent increase in restaurants participating in the food assistance program in the past 18 months, according to published reports.
Many restaurants are now accepting FAP cards from those who are blind, homeless or 60 years of age and older who have trouble providing a hot meal for themselves, said Alan Shannon, public affairs director for U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Services Midwest region.
“(Only) $100,000 out of the $2 billion given out via food assistance was redeemed at restaurants,” Shannon said. “Most people are going to use their benefits to get the most food for their dollars.”
Michigan’s overall food assistance program experienced a 57-percent increase in state recipients from 2006 to 2010, according to the USDA.
Michigan is one of five states with restaurants participating in the food assistance program, he said. Both Florida and Rhode Island are currently testing out this program on a limited trial basis.
KFC owner and franchisee Steve Rudoni said the KFC located on Mission Street in Mount Pleasant started accepting FAP cards this year.
“We wanted to provide help to folks who don’t have a home or kitchen to make a hot meal,” he said.
Although only a small percentage of people are eligible for redemption, Rudoni said some have come in with their cards.
“Countless hours were put into getting approval from the federal and state government to provide this service,” he said.
He said each person with a FAP card can spend with no minimum or maximum purchase limitations per visit.
As little as $5 can purchase a whole meal, Rudoni said.
Justin Winslow, Michigan Restaurant Association vice president of public affairs, told the Detroit News restaurants wanting to participate have mostly been fast food and quick service restaurants.
Although there has been a dramatic increase in participating Michigan restaurants, Mark Stevens, director of the department of human services for Isabella and Midland county , said there is no local list of restaurants available for reference.
Stevens said chains of restaurants do not apply to participate as a whole. Local restaurants make the decision to apply for the program.
“Each restaurant indivually has to apply with the federal food and nutrition services to be able to accept the bridge cards,” he said.