EBT now stands for restaurant meals

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


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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@ Ms baker,
Im sorry that you think its ok for the people on ebt to have fastfood. Most of these people need to be rid of, they thrive on free food and go and fill themselves with fast food. The fast food then makes them develop health issues;: diabetes high blood pressure.... Then you know what happens to these people? They have an episode and have to call 911 you know who pays for that? NOT THEM!! Our tax dollars. This ebt system is a giant circle of horror, and a majority of people dont need it. You ever notice that in the ghetto is where all the liquor stores and fast food are? As well as a bunch of obese people!! They leach off our system our free food and then our free medical. They abuse it. I wonder why in Palos Verdes they dont have this problem?? But, Inglewood does. Maybe our communities need to get rid of fast food restaurants or night time drive throughs and get rid of EBT.

I think that some people on here has forgotten that the ebt program was set in place for Americans who pay their taxes and may reach hard times. Now for the Americans that are on the program who has been paying their taxes for years who are just cashing in on their money for needing the services you have a problem with it ? Give these people a break they don't need your judgement and it's not just your money it's theirs too. So get off your high horse and support companies that are supporting struggling people and their families. As for non Americans who is on this program. I feel that is not fair and that should change because Americans set up these programs to help Americans and green car citizens who pay taxes in America (state and federal )like me.

Not sure about every state, but I believe in AZ only the homeless, disabled and elderly that are on the EBT program are allowed to use the card for "prepared" meals at participating restaurants. Those of us who are perfectly capable of cooking a meal at home should not be using the card outside of normal grocery shopping. However, I don't believe the state requires the participant to prove they are eligible to purchase a prepared hot meal and I doubt the restaurants are required to "police" such.

My ex husband is back in europe,doesn't pay child support and we never see any help. My kids are 10 and 14. Working a job 40 hours a week at $9 am hour I made too much money for help. Since my position was eliminated, I get help. It isn't my kids fault that their dad doesnt pay his child support,why shouldnt they be allowed to eat? Its up to the individual to eat healthy and noone should dictate. My children and I eat very healthy but sometimes I do buy some chips or something.It would be great to be able to go out and eat or grab something quickly that tastes a lot better than a frozen meal that you pop in the microwave. Fast food places have a lot of healthy options now.We have never eaten out a lot but occasionally there is nothing wrong with it whether you or a millionaire or a victim of circumstance. I can only hope that you people that judge others never have to face what some do.yes, some people dont want help but sometimes people need it to get back on their feet and why do they not deserve the same as others?

Food Stamps should be abolished, but as long as we the tax payers don't YELL we will continue to feed the lazies of this country. Now, they want to eat alogside the tax payers and that to me is too much.

Hey Moron! What happened to your sense of humanity? (That is IF you ever had one) Perhaps your parents were as stubbornly stuck in their limited capacity for thought as it apparently runs rampant in your DNA. There is not one thing demeaning about sitting along side someone who is less fortunate than you. You may even find that if you do you may be privy to life stories that would blow you away! BTW, have you noticed that state of the economy over the past few years? Have you considered the possibility the foods that are GMO grown by the government just might have something to do with the current growth rate of multiple health concerns. Have you considered farming practices just might have something to do with what millions of people consume on a daily basis. Did you ever once think that vaccination practices from the 50's forward (if not earlier) may now have been proven to have a negative effect on many persons immune systems, cancers, learning abilities? If you have any children (which I hope you don't with your pious perspective) I pray you have the care, concern , elegance and dignity to educate yourself on these matters. And finally, just for the record, In my particular circumstance, I've have two hip surgeries that resulted in 18 (yes EIGHTEEN) dislocations that have me left with an unstable hip, Fibromalgia (severe), Bi-polar Type 1, High blood pressure, Tychicardia, Anemia, Panick attacks, Two tears in my right rotator cuff and a leaking breast implant in my body. As far as the United States Government has decreed I am disabled for life. And guess what one of my benefits are? EBT. It is you that I would be embarrassed to sit next to for a meal. I have, in my career as a former super model, actress and artist, ( And believe me when I say I would rather be doing that and making millions as I did. And supporting multiple organizations from medical issues to animal rights with not only my name but cold hard cash.... What, by the way have you EVER done?), dined with Kings & Queens, Royalty, aristocrats, artists, musicians ( And I am referring to ones who are household names)equally as the the poor, hungry and sick. All human beings are indeed as important as anyone else. You, dear John, have much to learn and I pray you do, for it is persons such as yourself that have no heart, no compassion and don't truly understand the definition of being human. Time flies and there will come a day that you turn 98 and can't work or God forbid you are hit hard by an incurable health issue. How will you feel about food stamps them? Get an education and a life BASS! You need one desperately!

I was watching the news and saw the story about dominos and el pollo loco taking ebt cards, so i decided to google it. sure enough i found out that in L. A. Its been going on for a long time. But I think the people that are saying "my tax dollars are paying for fast food?" i think thats just plain stupid. first of all, your argument is " i dont mind helping" but you follow with, "but not on fast food" what difference does it make if you "pay" to feed someone with cold food or hot food? food is food. People are always saying how fat america is but they dont stop and think, a dollar burger is what the name says $1. and go to the grocery store and buy healthy food and its very expensive. you cant go to the grocery store with a dollar and get something that actually satisfies your hunger. and what some people are saying is true. fast food is cheaper than healthy food.

Hello and well wishes, first of all, we are all human and deserve to eat, drink and live without constraints. No matter what religion or political state, God said let us all be fruitful. We were put on earth to take care of each other, by any means neccessary, if the government decides to take it in their hands to feed the homeless, elderly or disabled with EBT, then by all means whats the problem. Everyone needs an hot meal once in a while, are you goin to bring them in your house if they bought the food from a grocery store and needed a place to prepare it? I didn't think so. I have helped many people in need because I believe that that is the way God intended us to be, you never know when he comes knocking on your door. I was homeless, hungary, jobless you name it and I needed some assistance from who ever would help, but some people are so self obsorbed that they can't see anyone elses hurt, wake up and change the way you think, creat a stable place for your children to copy. Show society that you matter and will do what ever it takes to turn our problems around trust me psitivity can be very addictive before you know it it catches on and we all are doing our part. I am now a business owner of a Fish Market and have created a program that helps the elderly receive hot meals at a very generous price, no I can't afford to feed the world but I feel that I am doing my part. Will you do your? I do not currently accept EBT because they aknowledge my business as a resturant, but I would if I could.

The hate, factionalism, and lack of forethought in this country astounds me. We don't have this hot meal program here, but I will tell you something. When you have a permanent injury or condition that precludes cooking and reduces the ability to walk a store, you appreciate microwave dinners. You'd appreciate a hot meal. There are healthy foods that you can purchase at fast food restaurants and it is cheaper than the grocery store. Many people are homeless through no fault of their own. I suspect I will soon be homeless due to incapacitating conditions. For all of those who are griping, there will definitely come a day when you will need help, too. Pray that someone will be willing to help you.


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