Extending a pilot with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Walmart and Amazon have launched an online grocery service for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) beneficiaries in Washington.
Walmart and Amazon said yesterday they began enabling Washington state participants in SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, shop and pay for groceries online using their electronic benefits transfer (EBT) cards. The two retailers also participate in the SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot with ShopRite in New York.
“SNAP beneficiaries in the greater Seattle area are now able to use their nutrition assistance benefits to order groceries online from Amazon as well as other participating retailers and have them delivered directly to their door, thanks to a pilot program launched with the USDA,” Kristina Herrmann, director of underserved populations and SNAP EBT programs at Amazon, said in a blog post Wednesday. “SNAP recipients in the rest of Washington state will soon have access to the pilot program.”
The SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot got under way in April 2019 in New York. Amazon and ShopRite are providing the service to the New York City area, and Walmart is enabling the service in upstate New York locations. Retailers in the test are limited to delivery in the pilot areas.
"We continue to be excited to be part of the USDA’s pilot program and to be able to make our grocery pickup and delivery service available to more and more people, regardless of their payment method,” Walmart said in a statement on the launch in Washington. “Access to convenience, quality and fresh groceries shouldn’t be dictated by how you pay. We have a strong presence in the states in which the pilot is live, and we look forward to expanding."
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 can must use EBT cards issued by the state for payment. Amazon and Walmart are able to accept SNAP EBT payments through their websites. SNAP recipients can use their benefits to buy eligible food products but not to pay for service or delivery charges.
“This is the first time that hundreds of thousands of SNAP recipients in Washington can redeem their grocery benefits online. Amazon enthusiastically volunteered to work with the USDA and participate in this landmark pilot because we believe in the goals of this program and its potential to significantly extend the value of SNAP benefits,” Herrmann stated. “In addition to enabling SNAP EBT as a payment method, Amazon has made AmazonFresh and Pantry available to Washington SNAP recipients without a Prime membership and free shipping available, just as it did in New York last year.”
According to the USDA, the pilot phase focuses on safe and secure processing of online transactions. “As the pilot progresses, more retailers and states will be launching the ability to pay with SNAP EBT online,” the department said on its website.
The SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot arose from the 2014 Farm Bill, which authorized the USDA to test online purchasing for recipients before rolling it out nationally. In early 2017, the department offered participation in the pilot’s first phase to Amazon, Walmart, ShopRite, Safeway, Hy-Vee, FreshDirect, Dash’s Market and Wright’s Markets, covering market areas in New York, Washington, Alabama, Iowa, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey and Oregon.
“As we expand participating areas throughout the life of the pilot, Amazon believes the program will dramatically increase access to food for more remote customers and help to mitigate the public health crisis of food deserts,” Herrmann added.