For the first time, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants will be able to select and pay for their groceries online, during a two-year test (pilot) launched in New York State. In making the announcement, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue highlighted online purchasing’s potential, along with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) commitment to program integrity by looking carefully at the pilot. Lessons learned from this pilot are expected to inform future efforts to expand online purchasing in SNAP.
“People who receive SNAP benefits should have the opportunity to shop for food the same way more and more Americans shop for food, by ordering and paying for groceries online. As technology advances, it is important for SNAP to advance, too, so we can ensure the same shopping options are available for both non-SNAP and SNAP recipients,” Perdue said. “We look forward to monitoring how these pilots increase food access and customer service to those we serve, specifically those who may experience challenges in visiting brick-and-mortar stores.”
The system is developed to allow online purchasing only by SNAP households with electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards issued by New York for this start of the online pilot project. Online retailers will be limited to delivery in the pilot areas in New York only. Information regarding expansion will be available after this launch is determined successful and other pilot states indicate their readiness to implement.
Amazon and Walmart will participate in the initial pilot launch, with ShopRite joining soon. ShopRite and Amazon are providing service to the New York City area and Walmart is providing online service in upstate New York locations. Additional retailers are slated to participate in the pilot in coming months. The pilot eventually will expand to other areas of New York as well as Alabama, Iowa, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington.
The pilot will test both online ordering and payment. SNAP participants will be able to use their benefits to purchase eligible food items, but will not be able to use SNAP benefits to pay for service or delivery charges.
The 2014 Farm Bill authorized the USDA to conduct and evaluate a pilot for online purchasing prior to national implementation. The pilot phase is intended to ensure online transactions are processed safely and securely. USDA anticipates all eligible and interested retailers who can meet the requirements to process online SNAP transactions will eventually be able to take part, though the timeline is dependent on the progress of the pilot and any regulations which may need to be issued.
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) works to reduce food insecurity and promote nutritious diets among the American people. The agency administers 15 nutrition assistance programs that leverage Americans’ agricultural abundance to ensure children and low-income individuals and families have nutritious food to eat. FNS also co-develops the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which provide science-based nutrition recommendations and serve as the cornerstone of federal nutrition policy.