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EBT now stands for restaurant meals

A sign in a market window advertises the acceptance of food stamps in New York City.

TEXT OF STORY

Steve Chiotakis: There are some new signs luring customers into fast food restaurants around Los Angeles these days. No, they're not glossy close-ups of half-pound beef patties. They are plain white and blue signs, saying: "Now Accepting EBT" -- that's shorthand for food stamps. Reporter Vanessa Romo has more.


Vanessa Romo: Things weren't always so dire for Maria Ochoa. She once owned a beauty salon, a house, and a gold Lexus. But now she's at El Pollo Loco eating her one hot meal of the day.

Maria Ochoa: I always eat cold food, but I'm tired because sometimes we want some hot meals. And now that I know that they get the EBT, I come here and eat a hot meal.

EBT stands for Electronic Benefits Transfer. It's a debit card for food stamps.

Ochoa, a woman in her 50's with red permed hair and polished nails, is now living in that gold Lexus. Six months ago, she would have been hard-pressed to find a restaurant that takes food stamps. Now El Pollo Loco, Dominos and Jack in Box are part of L.A. county's Restaurant Meals program.

Lydia Erviti oversees the program, which includes more than 500 restaurants.

Lydia Erviti: Our goal is to provide healthy meals for the homeless, disabled and elderly participants. Especially the homeless because they don't have space to store food or cook.

Restaurant Meals is also paying off for those on the cooking end.

Joe Stein is the head of Strategy and Innovation for El Pollo Loco:

Joe Stein: I can tell you for 2010, just the way it's trending, we wouldn't be surprised if for company and franchise stores was over $2 million. From something that just started in August 09, that's pretty good size growth.

Good enough to interest other chains in joining the program, like Pizza Hut and Burger King. But food stamps still won't get you a Big Mac or Chicken McNuggets. Not yet anyway.

That's OK with Maria Ochoa:

Ochoa: With my blood pressure and my diabetic, I can not eat too much salt and greasy food. That's why I prefer to come here.

For now she's sticking with the grilled chicken.

In Los Angeles, I'm Vanessa Romo for Marketplace.

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I cant particularly feel too passionate about the issue on either side because I agree and disagree with both sides.  So here's my story and let's see how that turns out.   I was raised by a single dad who did pretty well, educated, decent job, we did fine.  Upon entering college (university, not community college) my dad helped at first and I did not really have to work.  Maybe 15 hrs a week.  I am a premed biology major.  So no offense to easier majors but bio majors spend probably twice as much time in the classroom/laboratories and studying at home.  As a premed student on top of that a lot of my time is dedicated to volunteering, homework, classes/labs, internship, physician shadowing, etc.  After my second year of school I transferred universities and because of personal reasons my father did not help me anymore.  Since that day I have continued being a full time premed biology student, work a MINIMUM of 20 hrs a week (much more when class is not in session, if my job gives me hours) in retail making peanuts and continue with my volunteering, etc.  I pay my own tuition, rent, utilities, car insurance, etc. And I BARELY get by as long as everything goes right.  Get a flat tire? Need gas for school, etc?  If anything comes up I have to ask my grandparents or siblings to borrow a few bucks, which is not easy.  I have paid taxes since I was 18 and many family members fought for this country ( I plan to join also, as a doctor in trauma surgery).   So given all that info, can you tell me that you have a problem with me finally applying for and receiving food stamps?  My GPA has increased,  my blood pressure and anxiety have improved, I now can rest if an emergency expense comes up, I don't have to break down crying when I ask a neighbor for a ride to school because I cant afford gas. I dont have to take on more hours at work or overdraft.  I rarely buy snack foods with my EBT, but every once in a while it's nice.  Now knowing it will be available at fast food, my thought is "eh, unhealthy, but yes sometimes on a lunch break from work or during an all night study on campus or a day full off errands it will be SOOOO much more convenient to stop and get take out instead of going to a store and opting for a box of snack bars and a banana that won't do much for me in that circumstance.  So hopefully that's some insight.  Maybe people on side A should stop assuming and clinging to worst case scenario stereotypes and type B should be regulated and quit taking advantage of the system.  the second I start making decent money and especially when I get great loans from med school, for sure when I become a doctor of course I will come off EBT.  But for now this is the only way for me to get there.   If side A had their way they'd have me drop out and work full time at walmart instead of getting food benefits as a student.   So I say.... Screw you, I'll see you in surgery on my operating table in 10 years :)

There are people who really DO need EBT like the disabled, people with cancer, homeless. However I think it is way too easy to get EBT in some states, like mine. I knew a guy who the state said was mentally disabled yet he drove a car, also owned the car, a motorcycle and a dune buggy. I don't know the exact laws re: how a state considers one "mentally disabled" yet I assume if you are deemed as such, you wouldn't be given a license to drive. I have no problem with people wanting to be on EBT and eat healthy but I think too many people shop high end for no reason. I work pt @ a high end market, while in school working on my 3rd degree(hopefully last). I don't think people on EBT should shop at my store. Food is too expensive. You can find the same, organic/natural brands at common chains and for less money. My husband and I have to stretch a dollar and we STILL shop at the common chains instead of my store...and I get a 20% discount at my store. I think people on EBT should be limited to the stores they are allowed to shop in. I am...it's called "you can't afford to shop here, don't shop here." You don't see me asking for a handout. If I want a luxury food item(ie Sushi) I may buy it once a month. it's all I can afford. People on EBT can buy Sushi and that's wrong. Use your own money. EBT prevents people from acting responsibly and making everyone think you can do what you want and get what you want w/o consequence. However, there are people that need EBT and I feel for them. not the customer who can barely speak English yet have over $600 in EBT food benefits. My great grandparents came to this country and were required to speak English, have money on them and an address to where they were going(according to the Ellis Island manifests).

Wow, it's funny to me to read the different sides of this debate. One side you have those recieve benefits and they argue that they paid their taxes and should recieve benefits and they are right, then you have the people who are educated that think they know everything there is to know about everything and they don't know crap! Of course the people you see need the help duhhhhh!!!!! It's the ones that aren't disabled that are abusing the system! Hell I am a certified therapist and I KNOW a lot of people that abuse the food stamp program so don't think that just because the ones that you have aren't abusing the system that 70% of the others aren't either! I applied for and was accepted for food stamps but didn't take them just to see how easy it was and you know it is really easy so yes I think we should cut half of the benefits and put more money into the screening process and make sure the people that get food stamps NEED them and aren't just taking something cause it's there! Also for a so-called educted person one of the people posting here gets very angry cause someone else has a different opinion. I even bet they get angry with me and I have worked with thousands of people so I know who needs food stamps and who doesn't and who reviews them! So try to look at the problem of abuse from a different angle before you blow up and try to act all high and mighty cause you know 5 people that are disabled and need food stamps

...I came across this thread while doing research on EBT cards as I have recently been approved for food stamps..and so many of the comments are extremely disturbing..Let me give you a short history of my situation.I am in my mid fifties and for twenty years I was in the banking industy-I worked my way up the corporate ladder from part time teller to Vice President-I paid into the system all of my life-then I was diagnosed with cervical cancer underwent radiation and chemo and as a result have had numerous heath issues requiring me to be on disablity-my husband has been unemployed(and looking for emploment) rigorously during those years..During my career I frequently gave to charities-mainly those aimed at helping the homeless and those down on their luck... I have applied and been approved for an EBT card as I qualify given my financial situation..I pity those individuals posting on here who want to abolish the food stamp program-Circumstances change in the lives of even the most sucsessful people-why begrudge those in need when you haven't walked a mile in their shoes-be thankful you are able to afford feeding your family-I have pride too but I would never criticize someone who needs help-after all I have been an upstanding citizen all of my life-I have paid taxes-and have paid into social security for years...Shame on those of you with such hardened hearts.

@ KYLE IN KY AND ALL THE REST OF THE DUMB ASSES WHO ARE JUDGEMENTAL AND CRUEL. ON THE ONE HAND I AGREE THAT SOME (not all)PEOPLE ARE ABUSING THE SYSTEM. BUT YOU KNOW WHAT SOME OF THE THE DISABLED (MENTALLY AND PHYSICALLY HANDICAPPED) HAVE WORKED HARD AND PAID INTO THE SYSTEM SO WE CAN'T GENERALIZE OR STEROTYPE. I MEAN HONESTLY DO YOU THINK ALL PEOPLE ON DISABILITY ENJOY SUFFERING. OBVIOUSLY THE WERE DEEMED DISABLED BY THE STATE FROM THEIR MEDICAL DOCTORS AND PSYCHIATRISTS. THEY DON'T GET MUCH MONEY.

YOU HAVE TO REALLY KNOW WHAT IS GOING ON. I DON'T CARE WHERE THEY EAT. THEY SHOULD BE ABLE TO EAT AND SHOP WHEREVER THEY WANT AS LONG AS THEY DON'T ABUSE THE SYSTEM. NOT ALL DO. YOU SHOULD SEE THE SEVERE CASES I HAVE WORKED WITH. I MEAN REALLY PEOPLE WITH SEVERE MEDICAL/PSYCHIATRIC ISSUES IN HOSPITALS. DO YOU THINK THEY WANT TO BE THERE. THE DISABLED PEOPLE I KNOW OR HAVE TREATED HAVE SUFFERED SO MUCH AND CAN NOT WORK AND THEY DO MISS WORK. NOT WORKING LOWERS ONES SELF ESTEEM. SOME PEOPLE I KNOW HAVE BEEN SOCIAL WORKERS LIKE MYSELF OR HAVE A HIGHER EDUCATION THAN YOU DO OBVIOUSLY. YOU SEEM NOT TO GET THE BIG PICTURE AND HAVE DONE YOUR RESEATCH. THERE ARE NURSES AND SOCIAL WORKERS WITH GRADUATE DEGRESS WHO ARE ON DISABILITY AND BELIEVE ME THEY DO NOT GET MUCH MONEY. I KNOW A FEW IVE WORKED WITH WHO HAVE GONE BACK TO WORK AND HAVE HAD TO LEAVE/RESIGN BECAUSE THEY WERE NOT READY TO WORK. THEY FELT SO ASHAMED AND GUILTY THAT THEY WENT TO WORK AND WERE FIRED. SOME DISABLED PEOPLE WILL HAVE BENEFITS FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIFE AND PROBABLY EBT TO SO GET USED TO IT UNLESS YOU PLAN ON RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT LOL.

TO CONTINUE, SOME PEOPLE WHO ARE DISABLED WHO GO BACK TO WORK ARE NOT ABLE TO WORK FULL TIME. SOME GET SICK AGAIN OR THEY ARE ASKED TO RESIGN BECAUSE THERE IS NO OTHER JOB THAT THEY CAN DO.

DEAL WITH YOUR OWN ANGER AND MANAGE IT BECAUSE IF YOU WERE IN FRONT OF MY FACE RIGHT NOW OH GOODNESS YOU WOULD GET A SLAP ACROSS THE FACE.

My family and I have food stamps! I think that it is great! I'm glad that more places are accepting EBT cards. The poor need things, too!

I work in a small town grocery store. I see people come in with their EBT card and buy chips, soda, and cookies. Then after their transaction they decide to buy alcohol and tobacco. How do they pay for it? They pull out a twenty dollar bill and pay for it. It's terrible how people abuse the system.

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