Amazon, Hy-Vee and Safeway among retailers in USDA online food stamp test
Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it is working with a group of retailers on a pilot designed to test the viability of enabling participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to use their benefits to purchase groceries online.
The goal of the test is to try and help people in urban and rural areas, who may not have a lot of purchasing options, gain access to more nutritious food choices.
“Online purchasing is a potential lifeline for SNAP participants living in urban neighborhoods and rural communities where access to healthy food choices can be limited,” said Tom Vilsack, USDA secretary, in a statement. “We’re looking forward to being able to bring the benefits of the online market to low-income Americans participating in SNAP.”
Retailers participating in the program, which will start this summer and run for two years, include:
- com (Maryland, New Jersey, New York)
- Dash’s Market (Based in Buffalo, NY)
- FreshDirect (New York)
- Hart’s Local Grocers (Based in Rochester, NY)
- Hy-Vee (Iowa)
- Safeway (Maryland, Oregon, Washington)
- ShopRite (Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania)
The pilot will test both online ordering and payment. Payment, according to the USDA, presents both technical and security challenges that will need to be worked out before the agency expands the test to other regions and then rolling it out nationwide.
One potential damper is that while SNAP participants may use their benefits to purchase food online, that ability will not extend to delivery charges, which must be paid out-of-pocket.
SNAP helps supplement the food budgets of low-income Americans. According to the USDA, the program covers more than 43 million individuals, nearly half of which are children and 10 percent are above 60 years of age. More than 40 percent of recipients live in households where there is an income.
- USDA Announces Retailer Volunteers for SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot – U.S. Department of Agriculture
- Amazon to accept food stamps for online grocery orders in select states through federal pilot program – GeekWire
- Hart’s Local Grocers to pilot program for online SNAP payments – Rochester Democrat & Chronicle
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will allowing people participating in the SNAP program to purchase groceries online help those living in rural and urban food deserts? What challenges will the USDA and participating retailers face in making the online program work?