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.

Log in to post58 Comments


Our tax money is going to fast food? This is horrible. And we wonder why the government has such a huge deficit? For reasons like this. I worked extremely hard just to eat top ramen for dinner today, going out to eat fast food today would have been nice but I can't afford it so I do not. Also, with more people eating fast food, more medical bills are needing to be paid for by the taxpayers due to fast food being unhealthy, the majority of it at least. (people using food stamps do not have medical insurance, it is paid for by the government which in turn is paid for by our tax money. This is just plain ridiculous.

Fast food is cheaper than buying at the Grocery store, you get more for the money. All the ingredients to make the meal they serve for 1 dollar would be more if I bought it at the grocery store. I could stretch my food stamps much further than they go now. I always run out of milk,bread and eggs , a good 10 days before my new benefits come in. I try and save enough out every month for these staples. But if I BLOW it on fresh produce, I get jacked up and run out. Sure I want to eat healthy. but can;t afford it. I have been looking for a job diligently. I used to make 50 to 75 grand all my life. Now i'm 46 can't find a job. I can't live on 7.25 an hour. I have 2 kids. The gas to get to a job that pays that in my rural area will far exceed what I will be paid. And I can't get 40 hours a week plus overtime. Oh I will work it, but they say no. 20 hours or so.If that. I apply to restaurants as a waitress, but they want the younger kids there. So, now you teell me what to do when gas is 4.00 bucks a gallon and it's 15 to 20 miles back and forth less taxes, feed my kids, gas in the car and pay rent?? I'll take double cheeseburgers and fries or a dollar salad at the dollar menu all day long. Thats 2 things each 18 dollars a day. 540 bucks a month. I think I have to skip meals for myself and feed the kids.I only get 312.0 a month. Whether I buy at the grocery store or fast food. Which I can't in Pennsylvania anyway. Which I DO!!!

When you have a child and the father walks out and pays nothing for your child's care. When you work 16 hour days every weekend and 12 hour days during the week to get your degree and liscensure to work cooking a meal isn't always an option. It's nice to be able to pick up a meal to feed your child before you have to leave her in a strangers hands again to go back to work. Mcdonalds and burger king no but subway or a salad or even golden corral allows you to get a decent meal for your child but it also gives your kid the precious time with you she needs to be healthy emotionally as well. Judge not lest you be judged

This is outrageous. I'm happy to support programs that feed the needy. But the idea of my tax dollars going to fast food restaurant chains makes my blood boil. This food is flat-out poison. I boycott fast food because I'm morally opposed. If the needy need a hot meal, what's wrong with the community coming together to run a soup kitchen?

the people of the land all over the world .should be destroyed.. The only reason why most people are poor or broke is because of the cheats that con cure the society of those who were of humble peace. What i really saying is that everyone would of had a chance to be equal. . The scale of life wouldn't be so far spread if those who killed or stole need to be hating to better there life. No one have the god right to judge or keep a nation from becoming of all they could especially .( America) keeping Americans of who knew nothing but the goodness of being a American. Now it's really the departed state of America (d.s.a.), how is this country going tell someone in another country what good or bad, For them to handle there purpose of being coming successful .These days ,everyone just a flesh of nothings because of thoughts, they feel there to stay only among a few, not realizing that someday they will have to come to those they have look down on ,for just the survival of life in the peace of being free. and being able to please. I don't even know who America any more. there more now people or more selfish and rude, you know back in the days people where becoming together until some one had a great plan to divide this goodness of all people of love and caring and not to have a different in race, because they couldn't stand another having that power ,of what ever they was tripping on. Really can't stand the people who running this country. for they have a chip in them too. have anyone wonder the truth of why American people have falling apart from one another.; People from all over come to America thinking there better than the Americans , have you notice how the truth American is always going to war. what am saying . more Americans off to war, more others not truly from America, in the last 10 years are so. One day soon there want be many true Americans left. So why are those who comments on the ebt food card think they should have the right to tell those who lost one way or another .And truly these are the American People. !and truly realize ,America who really loosing.! have nothing against foreigners that come here to live, become a citizen and really think there Americans. but really can American go to there country?. Live there a few years and start telling them what to do.! really ., And if you don't have the money to back it up who are you to THEM .WAKE AMERICAN we may be of different shades of a race, but our American blood is as one. Anybody and Everybody should be able to get hot food no matter where it act or what there using. ect. .

I am a TANF and food stamps recipient. I am only 20 years old with a 2 year old son I need to support. My husband and I receive these benefits and are grateful for every penny. If it weren't for food stamps I wouldn't be able to afford the food my son needs due to his food allergies. My son was placed on special formula because he was EXTREMELY allergic to dairy, he couldn't even have soy formula. I had to pay $30 per 16oz of formula. If it weren't for food food stamps, my son would've been sick and who knows what would have happened. As far as these restaurant meals, they're limited to the disabled, elderly and homeless. But it is nice to be able to take you family out once in a while for a hot meal. It's nice to be able to take a break from the kitchen for those of us who have the luxury of having one. I work full time, go to school full time and I handle all the finances and documentation including medi-cal and GAIN as well as child care with CCFS and CAL-WORKS. What most people don't understand is how stressful all that paperwork is to fill out and stay on top of. Every once in a while it's nice to be able to take a break and just pick up food. So for all the people who ridicule and criticize, please just be sure you know everything before you do so. God Bless!

I am 28 years old and never thought I would need food stamps. I have worked and had an apartment and paid my bills and I proudly worked hard for what I had. I had a stable full time job about 2 years ago. Then I lost that job and had to move into a tiny bedroom with family. Thank god for them or I would be homeless. Riverside does not have this program and I don't need it. I spend my food stamps the most frugal way I can to make them last as long as possible. The family I live with can bearly afford to feed themselves and can't help me with food. I am able bodied and can work and I am always applying for jobs but don't get anything but the occasional temp seasonal job and I have only earned 200 dollars total this year. Finding work is very difficult when you are not from the beautiful people crowd. I am not a 19 yearold prittyboy and because of that I can't find entry level work, the only work I am qualified for. When you have a good job it is very easy for people to forget how to understand other peoples situation. I does not matter how much money you save because if you loose your job and can't find a new one before your savings runs dry you will be in my situation.

I think we should take care of our own U S citizens first.I wondering how much aid goes out of this country to people who are anti-american and feal we owe them something. Ive worked since I was 10 years old washing cars cutting grass and anything else I could to make a buck.At 18 I worked construction when available to me. I had a second job which paid my taxes Now at 46 years old and due to my health and being laid off in 2006 I had to file for dissability for mental and physical reasons I dont want to steal or deal to support my self either I lost or sold everything of value and threw out everything else Its not going to get any better either the rich work us to death and bleed us dry that discard us when we are of no use to them Then the government politions try to take any programs to help us They raised the foodstamp benifits the grocery store raises food prices right along with it I buy less food today then I did 2 years ago Next they will tell you what to buy. Fast food may not be as healthy for you but if your hungry and your blood sugar is low its a quick fix until you get to the market If people dont eat thier going to do whatever it takes to get food usually something illeagal

I wish my state allowed me to get a hot meal. I get to eat a couple of lunchables a day living in my cozy little buick. I love how they ban you from buying hot food even at the store. People talk about healty choices for food but basically you get to eat all the processed junk like cheezits. Sure you can buy fruits and veggies but only if you don't want to eat everyday. Sometimes i'll skip a day if its means i get to eat a bag of grapes every once in a while.


With Generous Support From...