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FreshDirect Pilots SNAP Test in Bronx Expansion

NEW YORK — Online grocery FreshDirect here on Friday said it would launch a test program allowing recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits — formerly known as food stamps — to order groceries online.

The pilot coincides with the company’s expansion of its delivery service to lower-income neighborhoods in the Bronx, beginning Monday. The company, which has its headquarters and warehouse in Queens but is planning to relocate to the Bronx, has been under criticism for accepting millions of dollars in incentives to move into an area it does not serve.

FreshDirect currently offers online ordering and delivery throughout much of New York City and some neighboring counties.

“As we continue to grow and create jobs in New York City, we are thrilled that we are now able to serve the entire Bronx and provide residents there with convenient access to quality, fresh foods,” Jason Ackerman, chief executive officer of FreshDirect, said in a statement.

Details about the SNAP pilot are “still being worked out,” the company said. Currently, SNAP beneficiaries are not able to purchase groceries online using the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) system. FreshDirect asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to approve a pilot program to allow it to serve a test segment of SNAP beneficiaries in the Bronx.

To ensure compliance with EBT regulations currently in place, FreshDirect said it will make several modifications to its operations for the pilot program. The company will waive all delivery charges for EBT orders as a condition of current EBT purchase restrictions; purchase thousands of dollars worth of offline payment processing machines and pay incremental fees to accept EBT at the point of delivery; and modify its website interface and driver delivery software to ensure electronic reconciliation of individual EBT order accounts — something that is not currently available with mobile EBT processing devices.

USDA Undersecretary Kevin Concannon supported the FreshDirect project, saying, “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients in the Bronx will have greater access to the fresh foods that are so vital to healthy nutrition.”

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