USDA Rolls Out Program For Online Grocery Availability To Food Stamp Users

Online Grocery Shopping
A shopper views various types of cereal at a Ralphs grocery store (Photo: Reuters)

To further promote the use of its food stamps and to boost retail sales across the country, the US Department of Agriculture has launched a new pilot program that will allow food stamp users to buy their groceries online.

The pilot program, which is currently running in New York, will allow beneficiaries of the government's food purchasing assistance program to buy their groceries through online stores from retailers such as Amazon and Walmart.

Apart from Walmart and Amazon, Wakefern Food Corp's ShopRite supermarkets will reportedly be joining the program by next week. Upstate New York beneficiaries will be serviced mostly by Walmart, while the majority of the New York City area will be serviced by Amazon and ShopRite.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly the US Food Stamp Program, provides assistance to low and no-income families in the United States. In 2018, over 40 million Americans, or 12 percent of the population, had received food stamps through the program, with the amount given depends on the household's expenses, size, and total income.

According to the US secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, there is absolutely no reason why recipients of the federal aid program shouldn't be able to shop for food online. As it stands, more and more Americans are now ordering and paying for their groceries online.

Similar to the adoption of new technologies by major retailers, the SNAP program has evolved and is now mainly using a specialized debit card system known as Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT). Instead of using food stamps, recipients in New York can now use their EBT cards to purchase groceries online.

The USDA announced that they will soon be expanding the program to states such as Alabama, Iowa, Nebraska, New Jersey, and Washington in the coming months.

Walmart has committed to using nearly 275 of its stores in nine states to offer grocery pickups for SNAP users. The retailer currently has around 40 stores in other states that offer online grocery services for SNAP users.

Amazon, on the other hand, mentioned that New York SNAP users will not be able to shop at their Prime Pantry and AmazonFresh stores even without a membership.

The retailer also mentioned in a recently released statement that it fully supports the program as it will increase access to food for those who need it the most, which should mitigate the country's public health crisis. As the program progresses, the USDA expects that other retailers may eventually take part.

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