Cornyn, Padilla, Murphy Introduce Bill to Increase Oversight of Restaurant Meals Program
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Alex Padilla (D-CA), and Chris Murphy (D-CT) introduced the Meals for At-Risk Americans Act, which would streamline the application process, provide guidance to states, and increase oversight of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Restaurant Meals Program:
“The Restaurant Meals Program is an important resource for Americans struggling with food insecurity,” said Sen. Cornyn. “This bill would increase oversight, cut red tape, and modernize the application process to make it easier for more states to utilize this critical program.”
“Everyone deserves access to freshly cooked, nutritious meals, but for many vulnerable Americans, preparing healthy food at home is not an option,” said Sen. Padilla. “The Restaurant Meals Program is a vital source of quality, prepared meals for millions of Californians who are disabled, elderly, or experiencing homelessness. This legislation will make it easier for states to create their own Restaurant Meals Programs and for restaurants to apply for the program, helping feed our communities and supporting mom-and-pop businesses.”
“The Restaurant Meals Program is a win-win because it helps feed Americans facing food insecurity while also supporting local restaurants,” said Sen. Murphy. “This bipartisan legislation would make it easier for more states to take advantage of the program to ensure seniors, people living with disabilities, or those experiencing homelessness and don’t have the option of cooking at home can still access nutritious, prepared meals.”
The Restaurant Meals Program (RMP) is a long-standing federally approved program for states that allows eligible people in vulnerable communities, such as seniors and those with disabilities, to use their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to purchase prepared meals at qualifying restaurants. The current application process is cumbersome, time-consuming, and submitted via mail with minimal assistance offered by USDA, making it harder for states and restaurants to apply to this critical program.
The Meals for At-Risk Americans Act would address flaws in the RMP application process by:
- Requiring the USDA Secretary to create a rule no later than one year after the date of enactment that includes a digital application and guidance for states seeking to establish RMPs;
- Requiring USDA to provide status updates to states and restaurants with pending RMP applications;
- And requiring USDA to offer enhanced technical assistance to states and restaurants seeking to apply to the RMP.
This legislation is endorsed by the National Restaurant Association and the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC).