New Program Opens Up Hot Meal Options

A new program helps seniors, the homeless and disabled people get hot, prepared meals by using their CalFresh (food stamps) County Health and Human Services Agency officials announced today.

Called the Restaurant Meals Program, it allows CalFresh recipients who have difficulty preparing meals or do not have a place to store and cook food, use their benefits at participating restaurants.

“This program will provide some of our most vulnerable residents with access to hot food,” said Supervisor Ron Roberts, County Board of Supervisors District 4. “Many of those individuals are without a residence, lack a proper cooking appliance or deal with a handicap that limits their ability to prepare certain foods.”

More than 26,000 CalFresh recipients have been notified they are eligible to purchase prepared foods at participating restaurants. CalFresh recipients who do not qualify for the Restaurant Meals Program are prohibited from purchasing prepared foods.

“Along with providing participants with what may be their only hot meal of the day, the Restaurant Meals Program supports an important component of the business community – restaurants,” said Supervisor Bill Horn, County Board of Supervisors District 5. “I also want to acknowledge the efforts of the California Restaurant Association in helping us create a workable program.”

Currently 17 restaurants participate in the program. In addition, 52 restaurants have been approved by the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and are in the process of upgrading point-of-sale devices to accept the cards that are used for CalFresh purchases. The California Restaurant Association helped recruit restaurants for the program.

Additional restaurants have started the approval process with FNS. As a condition of participating in the program, participating restaurants provide informational materials that promote eating healthy foods.

“The Restaurant Meals Program helps promote healthy dietary choices, and in doing so supports the County’s regional wellness initiative, Live Well, San Diego!,” said Health and Human Services Agency Director Nick Macchione.

CalFresh participants may call 2-1-1 to find out if they are eligible for the Restaurant Meals Program or to find a participating restaurant near them. They can also find locations at


Tom Christensen is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact