An Upstate New York restaurant has become the first restaurant in the state to accept SNAP benefits.

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Lakeside Haven, located in Charlotte, New York which is a suburb of Rochester, has become the first restaurant in the state to

Lakeside Haven is a cozy restaurant located in the suburbs of Rochester. The restaurant is known for its classic diner offerings and has been operating for eight years. Now, it is expanding its services to support individuals on SNAP benefits.

To be eligible for this program, SNAP recipients, including everyone in their household, must be over the age of 60, disabled, or homeless. The restaurant's owner, Karin Williams, told WHEC that she saw this as an excellent opportunity to not only expand her business but also to help seniors, disabled individuals, and those experiencing homelessness who may struggle to obtain or prepare meals for themselves.

Williams initially got involved with state programming during the pandemic when she helped with her county's Meals on Wheels initiative. This experience sparked her interest in supporting vulnerable people in her community and led to her participation in the pilot program for the Restaurant Meals Program.

Although the program is being rolled out slowly, with automatic enrollment for eligible recipients, Lakeside Haven has already welcomed its first customer under this initiative. The customer expressed gratitude for the opportunity to have a hot meal, which they said can be challenging for them to get or cook independently.

As part of the Restaurant Meals Program, eligible individuals can use their Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) or cash assistance payments at any authorized restaurant. In addition, program participants receive a 10 percent discount on their purchases. The rollout of the program is starting in the Rochester area, where there is a high concentration of eligible SNAP recipients, many of whom are seniors.

While Lakeside Haven is the first restaurant to accept SNAP benefits, there are many more waiting for approval. The program will continue to expand throughout Rochester and Monroe County, with a focus on incorporating restaurants in the highest-need zip codes. Brooklyn is the next target for the expansion of this pilot program.

Restaurants interested in participating can determine their eligibility and complete an application on the program's website.

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