What Restaurants Accept EBT Cards in Pennsylvania

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Compared to some other nutritional federal aid programs, SNAP has very loose guidelines. Many other programs specify what foods participants may receive from that program. For example, WIC has specific food categories the participant must choose from, and each category has a set amount of money the participant can spend. The basic SNAP program has some limitations on what participants can purchase. Participants cannot buy tobacco and alcohol from stores that accept EBT cards. Another restriction states that participants cannot use their EBT cards to buy hot meals prepared at restaurants, even if that restaurant operates inside of a grocery store that accepts EBT cards. While this rule may seem definitive, there are actually some exceptions.

In-Store Restaurants

The rules regarding in-store restaurants appear straightforward in the SNAP description, but there is actually some exception to the rules. The SNAP rules do not normally allow participants to purchase meals prepared at a restaurant that operates in a grocery store. The reason that participants are unable to use their EBT cards at these restaurants is because they are not technically part of the grocery chains; they only rent space from the stores. However, this rule only addresses restaurants that are not owned by the grocery store, itself. Some grocery stores have their own restaurants as part of the store. If the two entities are not separate, it is possible the restaurant will accept EBT cards.

There are also some restaurants in stores that are not strictly restaurants. Part of their services may include preparing hot meals, but they may also sell food that can normally be taken home and prepared at home. For example, some delis located inside of stores sell premade sandwiches, but they also sell meats or breads separately for customers to take home and make at their own leisure.

Whether or not this is in violation of SNAP rules is hard to say. Critics argue that it goes against the intent of SNAP. The SNAP rules are clear about not wanting participants to use their cards to purchase foods from restaurants, but others argue that these are not traditional restaurants, so no rules are being broken. Currently, there are no rules outright forbidding participants from using their EBT cards at these locations.

General Restaurants That Accept EBT Cards

To add to the confusion regarding SNAP benefits, there are some restaurants that do technically accept EBT cards. Some of the restaurants that accept EBT cards are only able to include them because they are part of bigger corporations. If a business or a corporation owns a store that accepts EBT cards, that benefit may apply to other stores owned by that group, including restaurants. In addition, there are some states that allow restaurants to accept EBT cards. However, EBT cards are not limited to specific states, so if a chain is allowed to accept EBT cards in one state, they are technically allowed to accept them in any state where that chain operates.

Like with restaurants inside of stores, this is not technically breaking any SNAP rules. In the future, it may be possible that SNAP changes the rules to properly address this. As of now, KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and Subway accept EBT cards. Since it is a bit of a gray area, not every single chain may accept EBT cards, so participants that are curious should ask before actually making any purchases.

Exceptions to SNAP Rules

There are some exceptions to the SNAP rules. The reason that SNAP does not normally want participants buying hot meals is because there is concern it is not an efficient use of funds. The program encourages buying ingredients that are cooked at home, since purchasing precooked meals is much more expensive, and participants have to make their SNAP funds last the whole month. In addition, home-cooked meals are much healthier than food prepared in a restaurant.

Certain SNAP participants do not have an easy time making food on their own, so they are allowed to use their EBT cards at restaurants. Participants who are elderly or who have certain disabilities can appeal for this privilege. These participants can freely use their EBT cards to purchase food at any location.