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Louisiana wants to allow SNAP benefits to buy hot meals at restaurants

Right now, SNAP benefits can only be used to purchase groceries.

NEW ORLEANS — There are long lines and many empty shelves at New Orleans area grocery stores.

It’s getting harder and harder to find certain foods as people shelter in place at home to slow the spread of the Coronavirus.

Governor John Bel Edwards, D-Louisiana, is hoping to ease the burden on families that rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – which used to be called food stamps, to buy groceries.

The state is now asking for a federal waiver that would allow SNAP recipients to use their Louisiana Purchase cards to buy hot meals at area restaurants.

“We are fully confident that we will be able to serve our population and give them the food help they need in the best, fastest way that we possibly can,” DCFS Secretary Marketa Walters said. “We will turn on every resource available to us to help people get food.”

While giving low-income families more food options, the waiver would also help restaurants that have been ordered to close their dining rooms.

Places that remain open, like Zea’s on Metairie Road are now take-out and delivery only.

Zea’s owner Greg Reggio said pushing more customers to local restaurants could help them survive during this public health crisis.

“It’s an excellent idea,” Reggio said. “We have 1000 points of distribution, with all the restaurants that are out there. They can fast track getting everybody on board.”

Zea’s owner has just one concern if SNAP recipients are allowed to buy hot food from his restaurant.  He just wants to make sure that the program doesn’t add to his current financial difficulties.

“The money’s got to get back to the restaurants immediately,” Reggio said “We’re all in a cash crunch. We’ve got to be able to do that.”

Governor Edwards sent a letter to the White House requesting a change in this federal program.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture would have to approve it.

The number of SNAP applications has increased dramatically in Louisiana.

According to DCFS,1000 families applied for it last week.

That number grew to 3000 this week.  

If you want to know how to apply for SNAP click here.

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