In light of the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic and the shuttering of many city restaurant dining rooms in the state, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission are asking the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to temporarily allow residents in the Texas Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) to use their benefits on takeout and drive-thru food services during this crisis.
The move would offer Texas SNAP recipients more food options, at a time when grocery stores are running out of products and restricting the number of in-person shoppers due to social distancing requirements. At the same time, local bans on dine-in service at restaurants mean many are now only offering takeout and drive-thru services (or neither — some that aren’t equipped for pickup services or chose not to offer takeout have simply closed up).
The letter, addressed to Dwight Crudup, the USDA regional director of Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), cited an “increased demand on the local SNAP retailer’s food supply.” If the request is approved, “it would open up another food source for 3.2 million Texans,” as noted in the press release.
This temporary statewide Restaurant Meal Program, as the letter refers to it, is something that exists already in other counties and states across America. It allows for the purchase of hot and prepared foods under SNAP. In Texas’ case, restaurants in the state would be able to accept SNAP payments through the Lone Star Card for takeout and drive-thru food orders.
The letter also asks FNS to make the application process for restaurants easier during this time, so that businesses can start accepting those SNAP payments as soon as possible.
The waiver, if approved, would apply temporarily only during this COVID-19 pandemic, though there is no end date requested at this time.