Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Why this patisserie owner in Brooklyn went viral for accepting SNAP/EBT at her business

Jatee Kearslet went viral for accepting SNAP/EBT at her bakery. (Courtesy)
Jatee Kearslet went viral for accepting SNAP/EBT at her bakery. (Courtesy)

At Jatee Kearsley’s Je T’aime Patisserie in Brooklyn, you’ll find classic baked goods like croissants, cakes and biscuits. But something sets Kearsley’s shop apart: Her business welcomes customers using EBT and SNAP, government food assistance programs.

Her business can do that because she sells products the government categorizes as staples: orange juice, bread and milk.

Kearsley went viral after she appeared on Righteous Eats, a social media feed highlighting New York City restaurants. Kearsley says she wanted to make her treats accessible to the community around her.

“There’s still millions of people in America who will receive these benefits. And they just want a snack, right? They just want something sweet to eat. And many places don’t offer these things for the community,” she says. “I made sure that whenever I opened my bakery, I was going to be for the community and affordable, something that anyone on any budget could afford.”

When she first opened, Kearsley said it took some convincing to get the neighborhood interested. She recounts a story about some school-age kids who wandered into her store a few months after it opened.

Kearsley says the kids asked about pastries they’d never seen before, like quiche, and she let them try some of the baked goods.

“I was giving away a lot of food because they were just so curious,” she says. “This is how I got the neighborhood to just come in and try everything. And as a new business, giving things away for free is not ideal. But my mission was literally to just change their mindsets.”

Kearsley says that same group of boys still visit her shop to buy her cookies, and they eagerly await her regular menu changes to see what else is in stock.

6 questions with Jatee Kearsley

Why do you accept SNAP/EBT?

“Growing up, my mom did receive [SNAP and EBT benefits]. As her child, I was also a recipient of these benefits. And knowing that there were limitations on what you can and cannot receive via these benefits – as a child, you want to go there, you want to get candy and you can’t. It resonates with my heart very much.

“It was never a second guess for me to have these SNAP benefits taken in my store. A lot of people questioned me, ‘Why?’ Like, ‘You don’t want that image attached to you.’

“And it’s just like, what image? The image of helping the community? The image of feeding people quality and good food? So it is a mission. It’s my life’s mission to help people in any way I can. And God just happened to make me do it through food.”

How was the response from neighbors when you first opened? 

“I’m in the middle of Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. Before gentrification, this was a very well-populated Black neighborhood. And stereotypically in Black neighborhoods, what do you find? Corner stores, liquor stores, fried chicken places. And growing up in Queens, you would find the same thing.

“These are items that I sell in my store that are not normal, that are not typical, that are not seen in these neighborhoods where the store is. So for me to put this bakery here, I got so many questions: ‘Why? Why are you here? You belong in Williamsburg. You belong in Greenpoint. This is too fancy for this neighborhood.’

“My question back to them was: ‘Why not? Why don’t I belong here? Why don’t you believe that this type of bakery belongs in your neighborhood? You deserve good quality food, just as those other neighborhoods.’

“So I’m not going to lie. It took a lot of convincing for the people in this neighborhood to try my store. We did not get busy until maybe the fifth month. And because people were just so skeptical about trying what is considered new food to them.”

What do you say to other business owners, who say it’s too complicated to accept EBT?

“Get rid of the image of what you think your bakery should be like and do it for the community. Because if you don’t have the community, you don’t have a business, right? And if your community needs a certain income level to support your business, but you can provide them alternate options than cash. Why not, right?”

What do you say when people call it ‘white people food?’

“I don’t call it white people food. I call it elevated food. I did not indulge in elevated food until I reached college. So this saying of ‘white people food,’ it’s totally about access.

“A certain culture may like to eat a certain food. So we, as a society, just latched on to that culture. But there’s no such thing as white people food. It is totally about access and attainability and sustainability, honestly. So I don’t believe in white people food.”

How are you staying creative with croissants?

“Every weekend, we do different specialty croissants. We’ve done strawberry shortcake. This past weekend, we did peach cobbler. We’ve done a chocolate chip cookie. We’ve done a blueberry cheesecake. We love to take this classic croissant and put our own little spin on it, because why not have fun with food, right?”

What advice do you have for new business owners?

“For anybody who feels a little bit troubled, not knowing what to do with this small business, just trust your instincts. Just go with what you feel. You can never lose when you’re trying your best.”

Gabrielle Healy produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Todd Mundt. Healy also adapted it for the web.

This article was originally published on

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit