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

NEW ORLEANS (WWL-TV) — Governor John Bel Edwards is pushing for changes in several federal programs during the COVID-19 public health crisis, including one that would help get food to those in need while helping struggling restaurants.

Edwards wants people now participating in the Federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to be able to purchase hot food at Louisiana restaurants. Right now, SNAP benefits can only be used to purchase groceries.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture would have to grant Louisiana a special waiver to allow SNAP benefits to buy meals at restaurants.

There have been long lines and empty shelves at grocery stores across southeast Louisiana with families eating at home to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Restaurants are operating on a take-out and delivery only basis with dining rooms ordered to shut down.

ZIA and Semolina’s owner Greg Reggio says pushing more customers to local restaurants will help them survive through these tough times.

“Not only does it help the restaurants and the restaurant employees, but it’s also going to help companies that support me, my distributors, my garbage guy, my suppliers, all those people,” Reggio said. “It flows down.”