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Illinois SNAP program allows food stamps at restaurants

Updated : November 28th, 2022

Restaurant Food

The state of Illinois is participating in the federally funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program’s Restaurant Meals Program. Launched in DeWitt, Franklin, and Cook counties during the spring of 2022, the program allows some SNAP participants – including the homeless, elderly and disabled – to use their SNAP benefits for hot, prepared food from participating restaurants.

This is a key break from traditional program requirements, which historically have limited use of SNAP benefits for cold food items or ingredients only. Under the extended program, SNAP benefits may be used to purchase eat-in or carry-out prepared food from participating restaurants – benefits may not be used, however, to purchase prepared food for delivery.

According to the Illinois Department of Human Services, more than 427,000 current food stamp recipients across the state can benefit from the program extension.

The Restaurant Meals Program exists as an optional state extension of the SNAP program – designed to assist those who may either be unable to prepare food for themselves or who may not have adequate housing for food preparation and storage. And though food prices at restaurants may run higher than costs for raw ingredients, the Restaurant Meals Program can go a long way toward fighting hunger and food insecurity among some of the most vulnerable Illinois residents.

To qualify for the program, current SNAP recipients must be any of the following:

  • A person 60 years of age or older
  • A current recipient of disability or blindness benefits or receiving disability retirement benefits from a governmental agency as a result of a permanent disability
  • A person who is homeless
  • Spouse of a SNAP benefits recipient who is eligible to participate in the Restaurant Meals Program

Qualifying program participants do not need to submit an additional application to be approved for the program – their existing Illinois Link EBT cards will automatically work to purchase prepared food from participating restaurants. Those who aren’t sure about their benefits eligibility may call the IDHS Customer Helpline at 1-800-843-6154 for more information specific to their situation. Otherwise, eligible participants will receive official notification from IDHS indicating whether they are eligible to participate. They will be able to use their Illinois Link EBT card at participating restaurants, just like they would at a grocery store. There is no per-meal or per-item limit when using the Illinois Link EBT card at a restaurant.

Illinois joins six other states in the pilot project, designed to collect data about how this expanded acceptance of SNAP benefits provides nourishing, prepared foods for some of the federal program’s most vulnerable participants, while also supporting local community restaurants across the United States. While the program remains in early stages and data are not complete, some participating restaurants report up to 1,000 customers per week using their credits. To date, six restaurants in the Chicago area have opted to participate in the program. They are BJ’s Market & Bakery, Doughboy’s Chicago, Firehouse Bakery & Grill, Ocean Wave Soul & Seafood, JJ Fish and Chicken, and S2 Express Grill.

Rep. Sonya Harper (IL-6th District) filed the original bill to participate in the Restaurant Meals Program, and Gov. J.B. Pritzker later signed the program extension into law. For the pilot project, participating restaurants must be located in Dewitt, Franklin, or Cook County. The state of Illinois is actively encouraging additional restaurants in these counties to apply for program participation.

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  1. Hello,
    My question here is that of Unemployment benefits applied for in 2020 to 2021 along with the COVID 19 Supplemental UI payments that were all adjudicated in 2021 and finally paid in 2022 due to a large back up. The payments included all of the UI and the Supplemental UI under the Cares Act.
    Since these payments were for the Tax Year 2020 and the 1099 was dated for 2022 should I just do an Amended 1040 2021 tax return to apply this portion to that tax year?
    The State is Washington and the Gross Income is under $30k.
    I did review IR-2023-2 for guidance and I was looking for more detailed conformation and reference.

    • Hi, Mike – your best option is to visit with a tax professional for how best to report these earnings. This page is focused solely on the process for applying for and receiving unemployment benefits.

  2. Went through something similar. Had recently been promoted and became a target. I started getting in trouble for things that didn’t even make sense. Then I was made to drop it and even told that I was being argumentative (the only time an employer had accused me of this). In fact, I was defensive because I was being blamed for things that was bull. I eventually went to Facebook about not being able to speak up at work. No co workers on my Facebook. No place of employment listed. Didn’t mention the company in my post.

    The woman who was supposed to be training me for my new position refused to do so. No idea why. Guess she didn’t like me. Then her bestie went to my Facebook and turned in this post. I was fired. Without any other formal warning at work… as the other things really weren’t infractions, I just felt harassed at that point.

    They denied my unemployment (I know it was out of spite because I said the TRUTH) and I appealed it. Had my appeal hearing almost 2 years later– yesterday. And well, the company violated their own progressive disciplinary actions. Which suggests discrimination. And they claimed misconduct, but it doesn’t quiet fit the definition itself.

    Not to mention I was literally complaining about how they were treating me and how I felt like I couldn’t even speak up.

    They were worried about the image I created. But losing this unemployment case will create a much worse image for them. And trust me, I have no obligation to them once this back check comes. Everyone is going to know what they did. I’m putting it on all the social media platforms. I hope it was worth treating a star employee like shit.

    I find it crazy that the law allows employers to control what you have to say off the clock. Especially low paying jobs. I honestly believe what happened to me was a violation of human rights and protective towards an abusive company. The law protects abusive employers. Because, apparently, you can’t even say how you’re being treated at work– publicly. The image of that employer is more important than any employees well being. That’s what I understand from all this .

    We still need more labor laws to protect employees. Especially when what they’re saying is TRUTH. and the only reason the employer knows you’re talking about them is because you spoke fact.

    Anyway, I believe I won the appeal hearing. And I hope the employers image is permanently tainted. Since that’s their main concern and not my well being.

    Screw any place like that. You’re better off. I know I am.

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