Which Restaurants Accept EBT In Kentucky?

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In the last year, more than 20 million Americans lost their jobs, many due to the coronavirus pandemic. If you were one of those 20 million, you might have become eligible for SNAP benefits. But how do you know where you can and can’t use your EBT card? 


Unfortunately, Kentucky doesn’t have any restaurants that accept EBT cards. However, there are many other options for your EBT card. Read on to learn more about why and where you can use this card to get food for your family.


What Is the SNAP Program?


Before we dive into why you can’t use your EBT card at Kentucky restaurants, let’s talk some about what the SNAP program is. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is designed to help low-income families get the food they need. It was founded in 1933 as part of the Agricultural Assistance Program during the Great Depression.


Even though you may not realize it, chances are you’ve heard of the SNAP program before. You may know it as food stamps since when the program first started, the government would hand out paper stamps that people could exchange for food. However, people often sold these stamps to purchases other necessities, so the government has transitioned to a card system in recent years. 

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How Is Your EBT Card Connected?


Your EBT card is the system that replaced the old food stamps and is how you can access your SNAP benefits. This electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card has a certain amount of money loaded onto it each month. You can use these funds to purchase food items for your family, including baby food and formula.


Unlike some other government programs, your EBT card is not a direct cash infusion that you can use for whatever you need. As we’ll discuss more later, it’s meant to be used only for food purchases. Most grocery stores and convenience stores will accept an EBT card, and it is accepted in all fifty states and all U.S. territories. 


What Is the EBT Card For? 


Your EBT card is meant only to provide nutrition assistance for you and your family. It is not designed to help you pay for clothes, medical expenses, housing expenses, or other necessities. And, in fact, there are steep penalties in place if you use your EBT card for anything other than purchasing food. 


But beyond purchasing any food, your EBT card is meant to help you purchase groceries. As we mentioned, most restaurants will not accept EBT cards. However, you can use your EBT card to purchase processed food (such as frozen pizzas or pre-made lasagnas) or even snack food like chips, cookies, and crackers.


Grocery Store Restaurants


In most cases, you can only use your EBT card to buy ingredients or processed food, not a hot meal. One of the few exceptions to this rule is grocery store restaurants. If a restaurant is located inside a grocery store or a grocery store has a hot sandwich bar, you may be able to use your EBT card there. Be sure to ask before you order, though, as this is not always the case.


It is important to note that your EBT card benefits do not extend to food courts located inside grocery stores. So if your grocery store has a Subway inside it, you may be able to use your EBT card there. But you will not be able to purchase a hot dog or hamburger from the food court inside your local Costco.


Take-and-Bake Pizzerias


Take-and-bake pizzerias such as Papa Murphy’s will often accept EBT cards because they ride the line between restaurant and store. Technically, these establishments don’t serve food you can eat in the store. Instead, you have to take their pizzas home and bake them, allowing them to accept EBT.


Before you purchase hot food at a take-and-bake pizzeria or any other restaurant, it’s a good idea to check if they accept EBT. Some establishments will put signs in their windows indicating they accept SNAP benefits. You can also talk to the cashier or manager to ensure your benefits will be accepted before you order.

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Convenience Stores


One of the other places you can use your EBT card is at convenience stores. In most cases, those benefits are meant to purchase the snack foods these stores have available. But many convenience stores also offer hot meals that are you can pay for with your EBT card.


If your local gas station has a breakfast or lunch buffet, ask if they accept EBT cards for that food. You may be able to get a hot meal without having to take it home and prepare it yourself. This can also be helpful if you need breakfast on the way into an early work shift, and you don’t have time to cook something at home before you leave.


Restaurant Meals Program


Some states participate in the Restaurant Meals Program, which allows some SNAP recipients to use their EBT card at restaurants. This is designed largely to help people who may not be able to cook at home. In most cases, the Restaurant Meals Program applies to elderly, disabled, and homeless SNAP benefit recipients. 


Unfortunately, Kentucky is not one of the states participating in the Restaurant Meals Program. If you travel to participating states, however, you may be able to use your card there. Participating states include California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, and Rhode Island.


Where Can You Use Your EBT Card?


So if you can’t use your EBT card at restaurants, where can you use your card? EBT cards are primarily accepted at grocery stores, farmer’s markets, and other retailers that primarily sell food ingredients. You should also be able to use your EBT card at most convenience stores that sell food. 


Most major grocery stores will accept your EBT card, but it’s always a good idea to double-check with local retailers. You may also be able to use your SNAP benefits to buy food and seeds at your local farmer’s market. This can be a great way to help get your family the nutrition they need and support local farmers.


EBT Card Limitations


While your EBT card can have several wonderful benefits, it also comes with some serious limitations. Your SNAP benefits are meant to help buy food for your family, but only food. You may not purchase other necessities with your EBT card, including diapers, medicine, or clothes.


You may not be surprised to learn that you can’t use your EBT card to buy alcohol, even though it’s technically a drink. You also cannot purchase tobacco products, including cigarettes, chewing tobacco, or vaping supplies.


EBT Cautions


When we’re shopping at a grocery store, many tend to put everything in the basket together and check out with food and non-food items in the same group. But when you’re using an EBT card, it will not distinguish between which items are food and which aren’t. And there are severe penalties for using your EBT card to buy non-food items.


As you’re shopping, be sure to separate your food-items from your non-food items. You’ll need to check out in two separate batches to ensure only food items go on your EBT card. Failing to do so could get you kicked off the SNAP program for three months after your first offense and a year after your second. 


Qualifying for SNAP Benefits


The SNAP program is meant to help people who are living well below the federal poverty line. Eligibility requirements vary from state to state, so it’s important to double-check requirements before you file. You should also double-check eligibility in different states if you plan to move soon.


In Kentucky, a household can be eligible for SNAP if they have less than $2,250 in cash and bank account assets. Eligibility will also depend largely on your income and vary based on how much money your household makes and how many people rely on that income. If your household income is less than $150 a month or your rent or mortgage and utility expenses exceed your household income, you could be eligible for immediate SNAP assistance. 


Find Restaurants That Accept EBT Cards


This year has brought new financial hardships for many of us, and navigating SNAP benefits for the first time can be confusing, to say the least. Unfortunately, Kentucky does not have any restaurants that accept EBT cards. However, you may be able to get food at convenience stores, take-and-bake restaurants, or grocery store restaurants.


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