by Lorrie Griffith/editor-in-chief
Independent grocers that use e-commerce provider Rosie’s app soon will be able to allow their shoppers to shop online and pay for SNAP-eligible items at-store using their EBT benefits.
Jon Ambrose, co-founder and COO of Rosie, told The Shelby Report at his company’s booth at the recent NGA Show that Rosie has been working on its SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) capabilities for the last year and a half.
“What we’re announcing today (Feb. 13) is that we’re rolling out to all of our retailers SNAP/EBT capabilities for online shopping for in-store pickup,” he said.
In this scenario, the shopper places an order online, puts in credit card information as a “backstop” for the entire order and then, when they pick up their order at the store, the payment is made and the SNAP/EBT benefits are applied to the total.
Being able to do this offers “huge value to the shopper,” Ambrose said. “It’s a big deal for all of these stores doing in-store/curbside pickup because ‘can I use my EBT or SNAP benefits?’ is the No. 1 request from shoppers all over the country, consistently.”
Shoppers get to “save an hour or more of time, leave kids in their car seats; it’s far more convenient than going through the aisles,” he added.
With Rosie’s announcement, there are now 100 retailers across the country that can offer online shopping to SNAP participants.
As pilot participant, Dash’s Market also will be able to deliver SNAP/EBT orders
In January, one of Rosie’s retail partners, Dash’s Market, was chosen to take part in a federal pilot program—the SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot—to allow SNAP customers to purchase their groceries online and have them delivered to their home.
Rosie’s goal is to help Dash’s launch SNAP delivery services in late August, based on USDA timelines.
The home delivery element is “the holy grail of this whole process,” Ambrose said.
Why? Because 43 million people are on SNAP, and many of them have transportation challenges, he said.
“A lot of people instinctively think of online shopping as a luxury, but in fact, it is far more than that for a lot of people,” Ambrose said. “They don’t own a vehicle, or if they do, it’s difficult to pay for fuel; they have to minimize their use. But most of them don’t have reliable access to transportation at all, so they have their SNAP program, but how do I get to the store to use it? If you can have delivery available, that solves both challenges.”
Mark Mahoney, director of operations for Dash’s Market, which operates four stores in the Buffalo, New York, area, says his company already has home delivery expertise. The stores serve senior citizens who are incapable of coming into a Dash’s Market to do their shopping and may have in the past counted on family or friends to help them get their groceries. Dash’s also serves customers like the mom and daughter who shop together online. Mom shops at Dash’s, and her out-of-town daughter calls every week so the daughter can put together her online order, which is then delivered to mom.
“She gets the ad out, her daughter calls her up, and Mom says, ‘I want some pork chops, I want them thin cut.’ And six bananas, three of them ripe, three of them green. Her daughter can put a message with every single item.”
Another group that embraces delivery is moms with small children, who can place their order online when they have a few minutes and not have to leave the house to get their order.
Now, Mahoney says his company is excited to be able to provide that same service to its SNAP/EBT customers who may not have the ability to come to the store and shop.
Dash’s typically hires retirees to do its deliveries, including former corrections officers and mail carriers.
Now, proof of execution
Dash’s is part of a small group chosen to participate in the SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot; the seven-member group also includes Amazon, FreshDirect, Safeway, ShopRite, Hy-Vee and Hart’s Local Grocers (based in Rochester, New York). It is a two-year pilot, but “the USDA has said they are hoping to open up the pilot before it’s over,” Ambrose said.
The goal as of now is for the retailers and their technology partners to “prove to (the USDA) you can execute on what you said you could do,” he said. “So we have six months to put it all in place and get it up and running. Then they are going to run it for six months and look at the results. Then, as of early 2018, we’ll look at whether we can add more retailers.”
After that, a report on the pilot will go to Congress and the decision will be made about whether the program should be expanded.
In case the program is expanded, Rosie already is getting the technology needed for home delivery in place for its retailers.
“What we want to do as an e-commerce provider is enable this capability for as many retailers as possible as quickly as possible,” Ambrose said. “So what we are going to do, as of today, is do the setup for all of our retailers. Any retailer working with Rosie, we’re going to take the steps in the back office to set up this payment system to delineate the (SNAP) items. All the retailer has to do is say, ‘yes, I want to turn it on.’ And we’ll say, ‘great, it’s there.’ And they are all going to want to because it’s the biggest request” from SNAP customers.
For delivery of SNAP/EBT orders, the retailer must clearly delineate the SNAP-eligible items on its online shopping site. Then, at checkout, the SNAP and non-SNAP totals must each be clearly communicated.
“On the technology side, as an e-commerce company, we have to enable split payment processing…giving them one receipt,” he said.
Going back to Rosie’s announcement that its independent grocer partners can offer their customers the ability to shop online and pay for SNAP-eligible items at-store using their EBT benefits—which is separate from the pilot program—Ambrose said, “It’s a huge advantage today for all these retailers to serve the shopper and enable SNAP for online shopping. And it will help them get one step closer to the larger delivery capability, which is, again, the true end game of this process. That’s the way to really solve food access and food security issues—utilize SNAP in a home delivery program.”