Washington, DC -- When you think food stamps, you probably think of grocery stores, but now, more businesses like restaurants and fast food chains want to accept them too.
Nationwide, the number of people using food stamps increased 30 percent from 2005 to 2010.
Food stamps date back to 1932. The goal is to provide a hot prepared meal for people collecting food stamps who are not physically able to.
Five states have adopted the plan to include fast food chains and other restaurants in the food stamps meal plan: Michigan, Florida, California, Arizona, and Rhode Island.
This State Administered Restaurant Meals Program gives the option to people collecting food stamps, who are either elderly, disabled, or homeless.
Traditionally, federal rules don't allow food stamp benefits to be used for prepared meals. However, states were given the option to allow restaurants to accept food stamps in 1977.
Taco Bell, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Long John Silver's, and Pizza Hut are under the "Yum Brand" food company umbrella that is trying to encourage other restaurants to participate.
The elderly and disabled who use food stamps at these restaurants are allowed to buy meals for their spouse.
This may seem like a lot of restaurants are participating across the country in the food stamp program, but in actuality, the opposite is true.
In the whole state of Rhode Island, only 5 restaurants are participating, and just 14 restaurants accept food stamps in Florida.
Both Michigan and Arizona have just under 100 restaurants participating.
The state of California has the most restaurants by far, with more than 1,317 participating restaurants.
The United States Department of Agriculture says this program is necessary.
"For some people, they don't have the opportunity to go to a grocery store, buy and prepare food at home in a kitchen. So this may be their only opportunity to get a warm meal," explained USDA Communications Director Aaron Lavallee
Restaurant meals programs are optional to every state.
North Carolina's Department of health and human services department told WFMY News 2 that the state is not currently considering this program.
Anti-hunger advocates are mainly in favor of the plan, but on the contrary, public health advocates say encouraging more fast food consumption is not good for people's health.
WFMY News 2