Restaurants want a piece of food stamp pie

USA Today – By Jonathan Ellis and Megan Luther

The number of businesses approved to accept food stamps grew by a third from 2005 to 2010, U.S. Department of Agriculture records show, as vendors from convenience and dollar discount stores to gas stations and pharmacies increasingly joined the growing entitlement program.

Now, restaurants, which typically have not participated in the program, are lobbying for a piece of the action.

Louisville-based Yum! Brands, whose restaurants include Taco Bell, KFC, Long John Silver’s and Pizza Hut, is trying to get restaurants more involved, federal lobbying records show.

That’s a prospect that anti-hunger advocates welcome, but one that worries some current food stamp vendors and public health advocates.

Federal rules generally prohibit food stamp benefits, which are distributed under the USDA‘s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), from being exchanged for prepared foods. Yet a provision dating to the 1970s allows states to allow restaurants to serve disabled, elderly and homeless people, USDA spokeswoman Jean Daniel said.

Between 2005 and 2010, the number of businesses certified in the SNAP program went from about 156,000 to nearly 209,000, according to USDA data.

There is big money at stake. USDA records show food stamp benefits swelled from $28.5 billion to $64.7billion in that period.

Four states accept restaurants, with Florida the most recent to begin a program.

“It makes perfect sense to expand a program that’s working well in California, Arizona and Michigan, enabling the homeless, elderly and disabled to purchase prepared meals with SNAP benefits in a restaurant environment,” Yum! spokesman Jonathan Blum said…

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Serial Butt Slash Suspect Identified

NBC Washington

Fairfax County Police named a suspect in a series of slashing assaults across northern Virginia.

Authorities are looking for Johnny D. Guillen Pimentel, age 40.

Since February of this year, at least nine victims reported being slashed on the buttocks while shopping in Fairfax County.  Authorities said in most of the attacks, the suspect would distract the victim by dropping articles of clothing, and then inflict superficial cuts with a razor or box cutter.

Detectives said all of the victims have been females in their late teens or early twenties.  No serious injury has been reported; some victims did not immediately realize their injuries.

Police said Pimentel drives a blue Honda Civic with the Virginia tag KLX2689.  Detectives believe that he may have already left the area.

Although police believe Pimentel is linked to all of the slashing incidents, the current arrest warrant is only for one of the assaults.

The last known slashing took place on July 25 at the Forever 21 store in Fair Oaks Mall.  The slasher also struck in the Greenbriar Shopping Center, Tysons Corner Mall, and at the Fairfax Town Center.

Lucy Caldwell from the Fairfax Police said they identified Pimentel after receiving a tip from the public.

Now police are seeking the public’s assistance in locating Guillen Pimentel and ask that anyone with information on his whereabouts contact the Fairfax County Police Department at 703-691-2131 or contact Crime Solvers by phone at 1-866-411-TIPS/8477, e-mail at www.fairfaxcrimesolvers.org or text “TIP187” plus your message to CRIMES/274637.

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