FreshDirect, Amazon, Safeway, ShopRite, Hy-Vee, Hart’s Local Grocer and Dash’s Market will take part in a two-year pilot that will allow SNAP beneficiaries in certain states to use their benefits when purchasing groceries online. The test will begin this summer.
“For individuals who receive SNAP benefits, this is a game changer that will allow their transaction to be treated like a normal credit card transaction,” FreshDirect’s VP of public affairs Larry Scott Blackmon said.
FreshDirect, New York, currently takes part in a separate modified EBT (electronic benefit transfer) pilot whereby SNAP beneficiaries residing within two Bronx ZIP codes can order groceries from FreshDirect but must be present at the time of delivery to swipe their EBT card rather than entering it online.
FreshDirect waives the delivery fee for these customers, but the experience isn’t always convenient.
“If they’re not home at the time of the delivery we can’t leave [their groceries], so the hope and the goal is that over time as the USDA program evolves individuals with these benefits will be able to go online and make payments and be able to receive deliveries” made when they are not at home.
Blackmon said that the Bronx-based program continues to grow but didn’t share additional details.
West Des Moines, Iowa-based Hy-Vee, which has done its part to improve food access by providing free shuttle transportation to shoppers living up to 40 miles away, is eager to take part in the test.
“We’re pleased that the USDA has selected Hy-Vee as one of seven retailers from across the country for its pilot program,” according to a statement provided by a Hy-Vee spokeswoman. “As determined by the USDA, we are only approved for the pilot program in the state of Iowa. We will now begin the evaluation phase for this project where we will determine the infrastructure and enhancements needed to implement the requirements and timeline set forth by the USDA for this program.”
Pilot participant Dash’s Market, which is based in Buffalo, N.Y., also looks forward to its involvement. It uses the Rosie grocery shopping platform for mobile and web purchases.
“We’re now able to serve a segment of the population who we currently can’t get to and can’t get to us. Whether they’re low-income families, mobility impaired or without transportation, we’re now able to improve healthy food access to those community members who need it most,” said Joe Dash, owner, Dash’s Market, in a statement. “It’s an honor and a privilege to be among seven supermarkets in the country selected for this program.”
Rosie launched its SNAP/EBT acceptance capabilities for in-store and curbside pickup last year. Participating in the pilot will enable the platform to accept online SNAP/EBT payment to enable home delivery. After the USDA pilot, Rosie intends to offer the SNAP online payment capability to its hundreds of independent grocery partners.
According to the USDA, the goal of the program is for SNAP purchases made online to have a higher level of security than most other online purchases. Once the USDA confirms that the system is operating as required, it anticipates adding additional retailers. The USDA said it hopes online purchases will be an option for SNAP beneficiaries nationwide.
"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 in a statement. "We're looking forward to being able to bring the benefits of the online market to low-income Americans participating in SNAP."