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Does My State Participate in the Restaurant Meals Program?

Does My State Participate in the Restaurant Meals Program?

Does your state participate in the Restaurant Meals Program? It might! More and more states are announcing their participation in this incredible program, which allows certain eligible users to purchase meals from restaurants with their food stamps benefits.

In this post, we’ll talk about the states that have announced or implemented a Restaurant Meals Program. We will update this post as more states announce, so be sure to check that “last updated” date above so that you know when we last reviewed this content.

Why don’t all states participate?

The federal United States government authorized the Restaurant Meals Program in the 1977 Food Stamps Act. However, states can decide for themselves whether or not they want to implement this program. Basically, the federal government said that states could offer this program, not that they have to do so.

Not every state will participate in the Restaurant Meals Program. Several do, but others have chosen not to offer it. There are several reasons why a state might refuse to participate, including increased cost, extra paperwork, and the overall burden that the program creates.

What states participate in the Restaurant Meals Program?

There are currently eleven states that participate in the Restaurant Meals Program:

Let’s look at how the program works in each of those areas. Remember, each state has only authorized certain restaurants to accept EBT.


Arizona launched their program in September 2007. They were one of the earliest states to participate in the Restaurant Meals Program, which is why Arizona’s program is so well-established. They currently have over 300 restaurants that accept EBT!

According to Arizona Department of Economic Security spokeswoman Tasya Peterson:

Arizona implemented the Restaurant Meals Program in September 2007 as a federally approved option in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to provide greater access to nutritious meals for households who may have barriers to preparing and storing nutritious food. 

This option allows households in which all members are disabled, elderly (age 60 and over), or homeless and receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program (SNAP, called Nutrition Assistance in Arizona) benefits to purchase meals from participating restaurants and retailers.

DES elected to implement this option because many of these SNAP households are limited in their ability to prepare hot, nutritious meals for themselves, or, in the case of households who are homeless, do not have a place to store and cook food. Only those households who meet the above qualifications are allowed to purchase meals from participating restaurants.

Restaurants wishing to participate in the program must enter into an agreement with DES and submit an application for approval with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service (USDA – FNS). Arizona’s EBT card is programmed so that only those cards belonging to households who meet the Restaurant Meals Program eligibility criteria will be accepted at a USDA – FNS certified restaurant.

Tasya Peterson, DES Spokeswoman (as quoted by Phoenix New Times)

Although state lawmakers have periodically tried to change the law to end this program, their efforts have not succeeded. Arizona still participates in the program.

For more information, visit this list of participating restaurants that accept EBT in Arizona.


California originally allowed each individual county to decide whether or not to participate in the program. That caused a lot of confusion within the state, as residents in some counties could purchase restaurant meals and residents of neighboring counties could not. Each county had to submit a proposal to participate to the state government, which just added another layer of paperwork and confusion to this already confusing program.

San Francisco was the first county in the state to introduce a pilot program. They launched it in 2003. Los Angeles County followed up shortly after in 2005. Several other counties joined over the years, and eventually the state completely restructured how they approach the Restaurant Meals Program.

On September 1, 2021, the California state government changed the rules so that the Restaurant Meals Program would be available statewide. This was a huge benefit to residents who had lived in counties that weren’t already participating.

According to the California Department of Social Services:

Effective October 12, 2019, Assembly Bill (AB) 942 mandated that CDSS implement the RMP as a statewide program.

As a result of the AB 942, restaurant vendors who are federally approved may participate in the RMP statewide, within all 58 counties in California. As of September 1, 2021, the RMP has expanded to a statewide program. The CDSS strives to have RMP restaurant vendors in every county in the coming years!

California Department of Social Services website

As of this publication, there are participating restaurants in 23 counties. You can find a list of participating restaurants in our California RMP directory.


There is a law on the books in Hawaii that authorizes the Restaurant Meals Program. It appears that the law was first authorized in March 1993, and then amended in 1996 and 2013.

It can be found in Section 17-610-5 of the Hawaii Code. This law states that elderly and disabled persons and their spouses can use SNAP to purchase restaurant meals with coupons.

(a) The Restaurant Meal Program shall allow elderly persons sixty years of age or over, disabled persons who receive disability or blindness payments under Titles I, II, X, XIV, and XVI of the Social Security Act and their spouses who participate in SNAP to purchase restaurant meals with coupons.

(b) Elderly and disabled persons shall have the Option to use the coupons either at a grocery store or at a restaurant, or in combination.

Hawaii Code Section 17-610-5

According to the rules, restaurants must sign an agreement with the state to abide by certain rules. Restaurants may limit the hours during which meals can be purchased with food stamps, or they can choose to process EBT payments all day long.

The law also states that the restaurant cannot ask for anything other than the SNAP card for verification at the restaurant. The card should have both the name and address of the recipient. It should also indicate that the recipient is entitled to restaurant meals.

However, Hawaii has not released any additional information about this program. I have reached out to the director of the Department of Human Services for details.


Illinois announced that their state would participate in the Restaurant Meals Program in late Spring 2022. The program can take a long time to develop, so they have started by piloting the program in the Chicago area.

Please note that the geographic restriction is only for restaurants. According to the Illinois government website, you can use your LINK card to purchase food at a restaurant that is approved to participate in the Restaurant Meals Program even if you live outside of the geographic restrictions of the pilot. You just need to travel to that area to get to an eligible restaurant.

Illinois has broadly interpreted who is eligible for this program. For example, you may be considered homeless (and therefore eligible) if you are living with a friend or family member for no more than 90 days. You may be considered disabled automatically if you receive certain eligible disability payments, including SSI, RSDI, and 100% disabled VA benefits.

As of 2023, only restaurants that are located in certain Chicago-area zip codes are eligible to apply to participate in the Restaurant Meals Program. The restaurant must be located in either Cook, Dewitt or Franklin Counties as long as it is in one of these zip codes: 60617, 60617, 60620 or 60628.

There are currently several Illinois restaurants that accept EBT.


Maryland announced their intention to participate in the Restaurant Meals Program in 2020! This was an exciting development for low income Marylanders like Rhona Reiss, who was frustrated when she couldn’t buy a rotisserie chicken with her benefits.

The new program is still in a pilot phase, which means it’s being tested in a small geographical area to see if it will work statewide. This also allows the state to begin rolling out those benefits right away without having to develop it statewide first.

As of the time of this writing, there are only a few restaurants in Maryland that can accept EBT payments.


Massachusetts expects to open their Restaurant Meals Program to customers sometime in 2023. At the time of this publication, the program is still under development.

The state solicited restaurants and food trucks to participate in the Restaurant Meals Program until August 2022. At that point, the application period closed so that the state could process that paperwork.

In a memo to the Department of Transitional Assistance Staff, the Associate Commissioner for Change Management Sarah Stuart explained:

“DTA is electing to use the state option to operate a Restaurant Meals Program (RMP) in Massachusetts. As part of program rules, only certain SNAP households will be able to participate in the RMP and purchase meals at MA RMP-approved restaurants using their SNAP benefits. SNAP households are eligible for RMP only if they have a grantee or household member who is:

  • Homeless; and/or
  • Federally certified as disabled; and/or
  • 60 years or older

Any household receiving cash benefits from DTA (including combo cases) may purchase meals with their cash benefits at MA RMP-approved restaurants. If a combo case household meets the RMP eligibility criteria for SNAP households, they may use both their SNAP and cash benefits at MA RMP-approved restaurants.”

Memo to the Department of Transitional Assistance Staff dated June 23, 2022

We will update when more information becomes available about the Massachussetts program.


Michigan announced in December 2020 that they would once again join the states that participate in the Restaurant Meals Program! The state has had an on-again, off-again relationship with the RMP over the years so it’s not clear how long this implementation will last.

In the latest Memorandum of Understanding that Michigan requires restauranters to to sign, we can find some insight into the program. Some of the interesting tidbits are that participating restaurants must offer low-cost or discount meals to EBT users. The restaurants also cannot charge sales tax or service gratuities for meals purchased with food benefits.

As of the time of this publication, there are over a dozen restaurants setup to process those transactions. Here’s a list of restaurants that accept EBT in Michigan.


Nevada’s Division of Welfare and Supportive Services has one mention of the Restaurant Meals Program on their website. However, they do not offer any additional information. It is not clear if their program is operational and, if it is, it is unknown how many restaurants are participating at this time.

According to the state government:

“SNAP benefits can be used by the elderly and their spouses, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients and their spouses, and homeless households to purchase meals at approved restaurants.”

Nevada Division of Welfare and Supportive Services

I have reached out to the DWSS for additional information.

New York

New York’s program was announced when Governor Horchul signed new legislation on October 4, 2021, directing the state to start the process to participate in the Restaurant Meals Program.

However, this can take a long time. When I reached out to the state for a status update in January 2023, I received this email in response:

On October 4, 2021, Governor Hochul signed a bill into law directing the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) to begin the work to establish a SNAP Restaurant Meals Program.  

OTDA has just begun discussions with the federal government on the design and requirements of the Restaurant Meals Program and towards securing the necessary agreements and authorities to operate such a program.  No further information is available at this time.

NYS SNAP Bureau, via email to Low Income Relief

Rhode Island

Rhode Island decided to participate in the Restaurant Meals Program clear back in 2011! It began with a simple five-store pilot program in Providence, when five Subway chains were approved to process food stamps payments. Since half of the state’s eligible food stamps users lived within Providence, it seemed like a logical place to begin the program.

Since then, the program has expanded to include at least 10 Subway locations and other restaurants.


Virginia is listed by the federal USDA as a state that operates a Restaurant Meals Program. Unfortunately, I was not able to find any additional information on their state website.

I have reached out to the SNAP Program Manager in Virginia for more information.

Nicole is the owner and lead researcher for Low Income Relief. She has over 20 years of professional research and writing experience, and she has been solely dedicated to investigating low income topics for the last 10 years. Nicole started Low Income Relief after a personal experience with poverty. When her husband was medically discharged from the US Army, their family experienced tremendous financial hardship. Nicole was able to gather help from multiple community agencies and move into a nearby low income housing unit in just two weeks! Since then, Nicole has been dedicated to helping low income families in crisis. She regularly spends hundreds of hours combing through countless resources to make sure that Low Income Relief has the most comprehensive and complete resource directories on the internet today. Prior to starting Low Income Relief, Nicole worked as a novelist, journalist, ghostwriter and content creator. Her work has been featured in various print and online publications, including USA Today, The Daily Herald, The Chronicle and more. Her work has also been featured by Google for Publishers and other leading industry publications.

Melody ritch

Wednesday 12th of April 2023

Does Kentucky participate in the Restaurant meal program

Catherine Marucci

Thursday 13th of April 2023

Hi Melody. Kentucky is not a current participant in the program.