by Dawn Kepler, Project Administrator
By early 2018, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants will be able to make purchases online using their food assistance benefits in the following states: Alabama, Iowa, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Washington. Amazon and Wal-Mart are two of the ten online retailers that have been selected by the Food and Nutrition Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to participate in this SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot. The goal of this pilot is to assess whether SNAP benefits can be used for online food shopping in a way that is uncomplicated while maintaining privacy and security. Online purchases will be limited to only SNAP eligible food items and will not include service and delivery fees. This pilot was mandated in the 2014 Farm Bill and is anticipated to span two years. You can learn more about this pilot here.
“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,” former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stated in the SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot announcement. Similarly, another USDA pilot project was announced last year to assist homebound seniors and people with disabilities in accessing healthy food through the delivery of groceries directly to the homes of SNAP. In addition, Amazon recently came out with a discounted Amazon Prime membership fee of $5.99 per month for individuals who have a valid EBT number. This trend suggests continued growth in access to online shopping and home deliveries for low-income Americans.