Memphis fast food restaurant accepts EBT cards

A sign at the Checkers near Poplar and Holmes says the fast food restaurant accepts EBT cards.
A sign at the Checkers near Poplar and Holmes says the fast food restaurant accepts EBT cards.

(WMC-TV) - Viewers have called and written to Action News 5 asking how a Checkers restaurant in Memphis is able to accept EBT cards.

A sign at the Checkers restaurant on Poplar raised questions for some viewers about a debate over food stamps being used to purchase fast food. It's an idea the state is considering, but hasn't approved.

Wednesday, Action News 5 asked the Tennessee Department of Human Services whether Checkers was breaking their rules the state responded by saying.

"We cannot speak to the legality of Checker's operations," a spokesperson said. "We have not been approached by a restaurant to accept EBT cards. The only other means for a vendor to accept EBT cards is to be recognized as a retail grocer. This process is governed by the USDA."

But after our story aired at 10pm Wednesday night, a state spokesperson came forth with new info: EBT card holders can also use their card to store spend temporary government assistance money - cash that can be used to buy anything.

More than 24 hours after our first call to Checkers a spokesperson on Thursday provided the following statement: "Two Checkers locations in Memphis accept EBT for Cash Benefit. Before offering this payment method, Checkers was pre-qualified and approved by State Welfare Card Merchant Center. EBT was used as a shorthand on our marketing materials for this fully legal and state-endorsed program that is used by nearly a dozen restaurant chains throughout Tennessee."

While the debate over whether food stamps should be used to buy fast food continues, government money is already being used at fast food restaurants.

A DHS spokesperson said the cash being accepted at Checkers is likely from the TANF - Tennessee's Temporary Cash Assistance for Needy Families.