PHOENIX - Food stamps are already accepted at several fast food restaurants in the Valley and the programs may soon be expanding but some say that's a bad idea.
It's part of a pilot program from the USDA already happening in Arizona.
The program is designed to help people who might otherwise have a hard time getting a hot meal.
"There are people who simply cannot cook for themselves," said Steve Meissner, spokesman for the Arizona Department of Economic Security , the agency that administers the food stamp program in Arizona. "If you're homeless, you can't cook for yourself. If you have a disability that makes it difficult, you can't cook for yourself."
A Yum! spokesperson released the following statement to ABC15:
“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 just as they can purchase ingredients in a supermarket.”
But Valley nutritionist Don Matesz thinks the program could do more harm than good.
"Just generally I think it's a bad idea to use food stamps at fast food restaurants," said Matesz, owner of the Barefoot Acupuncture Clinic .
Matesz claims 80 percent of the patients he treats admit to eating fast food often.
He says that can lead to liver problems, diabetes and heart disease.
"It's convenient food," said Matesz. "You eat two to three meals a day there and not do much physical activity, it's going to add up."
The Department of Economic Security encourages restaurants to provide healthy meals and for food stamp users to avoid the unhealthy options.
But Meissner says they cannot and do not mandate it.
"We're not the food police," said Meissner. "We don't want to be the food police. We have no right to tell people what to eat and how to eat.
The USDA will ultimately decide whether to expand the program or discontinue it altogether.
Copyright 2011 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Did You Hear?
An arrest warrant has been issued for supposedly-dead rapper Tim Dog, who is accused of faking his death to avoid paying a woman $19,000.
Charles Ramsey, who helped rescue the three Cleveland women held captive by Ariel Castro, will get free McDonald's from his local fast food favorite for the next year, a McDonald's spokeswoman said.
A group of researchers has developed a map that shows how discriminatory a given county is based on the number of insulting tweets sent from that area.
More Central Phoenix News
A Democratic women's leadership group has named former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords its Woman of the Year.