The U.S. Department of Agriculture has extended its SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot to 42 states.
USDA said yesterday that South Carolina and Utah have been approved for the program. Under the initiative, launched last year, recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, formerly known as food stamps, can shop and pay for groceries online from authorized retailers using their electronic benefits transfer (EBT) cards.
South Carolina and Utah can now expedite the implementation of online purchasing with currently authorized SNAP online retailers, USDA said, adding that a target start date for both states will be announced. The federal department’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) oversees the program.
South Carolina’s SNAP participation encompasses more than 558,000 people and over 259,000 households, totaling $855 million annually in federal benefits. Utah’s SNAP participation covers 160,000-plus people and more than 67,000 households, for $235 million annually in federal benefits.
Earlier this month, USDA cleared Mississippi, Delaware, South Dakota and New Hampshire to participate in the service. That followed the addition of 13 states to the program in late May, when USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue said online purchasing would soon reach more than 90% of SNAP participants, extending to 36 states and the District of Columbia.
Along with the District of Columbia, states where SNAP online purchasing is now operational include Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
Amazon and Walmart are the authorized SNAP online retailers working with all states. Wakefern Food Corp.’s ShopRite banner is working with Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, while the retail grocery cooperative’s The Fresh Grocer banner is working with New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Wright’s Market is working with Alabama.
USDA said Delaware, Mississippi, New Hampshire, and South Dakota will be enabling SNAP online purchasing “in the near future.”
“Amazon has been working closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to rapidly expand access to online grocery shopping to Americans who rely on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. What launched in 2019 as a pilot for expansion into only 10 states has quickly fast-tracked to a nearly national program in order to meet the evolving needs of customers, both during and after the COVID-19 crisis,” Kristina Herrmann, director of underserved populations and SNAP EBT programs at Amazon, said in a blog post on Wednesday.
SNAP recipients in those 36 states and D.C. can shop for groceries online via three Amazon services: Amazon Grocery (shelf-stable food and household items in varying sizes), Amazon Pantry (food and household products in everyday package sizes) and AmazonFresh (fresh produce, meat and other items, available in select metropolitan markets). All have free shipping available. Amazon said it also has waived the Prime membership requirement for SNAP customers to access AmazonFresh.
“Amazon now reaches beneficiaries in 36 states plus the District of Columbia, providing more than 90% of SNAP households with the ability to use their SNAP benefits online,” Herrmann said. “Amazon volunteered to participate as a retailer in the USDA’s SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot in 2016 because we believe in its goals and to ensure that all customers have the opportunity to order groceries online.”
Amid the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, SNAP benefits have become a lifeline for more Americans. In April, USDA announced that emergency benefits were being raised 40% to $2 billion per month for SNAP households across all 50 states and three U.S. territories to address food security during the COVID-19 crisis.
The SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot got under way in April 2019 in New York, with Amazon and ShopRite providing the service to the New York City area and Walmart is enabling the service in upstate New York. Under the two-year pilot, the USDA and the retailers will test online ordering and payment. SNAP households that want to buy groceries online through the program must use EBT cards issued by the state for payment.
USDA noted that multiple stakeholders — notably, state agencies, their third-party processor and any retailers that want to participate — must collaborated to implement online purchasing using SNAP benefits. To that end, FNS has created a simplified template for states that want to operate online purchasing and provided guidance to interested retailers.
In states not yet participating in the pilot, SNAP recipients can use other online grocery options that retailers may already provide, such as click-and-collect services, USDA said. SNAP cardholders can shop online and then pay for their purchase using their EBT card at pickup.