The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has selected seven retailers to participate in a new project designed to enable Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants to purchase their groceries online. The two-year pilot is slated to begin this summer, with many of the chosen retailers based in the Northeast.
“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,” USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “We’re looking forward to being able to bring the benefits of the online market to low-income Americans participating in SNAP.”
Northeast firms selected include: Amazon—Maryland, New Jersey and New York; FreshDirect—New York; Safeway—Maryland; ShopRite—Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania; Hart’s Local Grocers—Rochester, New York; and Dash’s Market—Buffalo, New York.
According to the USDA, this pilot will test both online ordering and payment. Online payment presents technical and security challenges that will need to be examined and fully addressed before it is offered nationwide. As with the core program, SNAP participants will only be able to use their benefits to purchase eligible items online—not to pay for service or delivery charges.
As the pilot proceeds and USDA confirms the system is operating as required, the agency anticipates being able to add additional retailers.
“Eventually, our goal is for this to be a national option for SNAP participants, once the pilot phase is complete and USDA can incorporate lessons learned into program rules,” USDA said in a press release.