USDA launched a two-year pilot program April 18 in New York to allow Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program participants to select and pay for their groceries online.
Lessons learned from this pilot are expected to inform future efforts to expand online purchasing in SNAP, said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.
“People who receive SNAP benefits should have the opportunity to shop for food the same way more and more Americans shop for food – by ordering and paying for groceries online. As technology advances, it is important for SNAP to advance too, so we can ensure the same shopping options are available for both non-SNAP and SNAP recipients,” Perdue said. “We look forward to monitoring how these pilots increase food access and customer service to those we serve, specifically those who may experience challenges in visiting brick and mortar stores.”
The system is developed to allow online purchasing only by SNAP households with electronic benefit transfer cards issued by New York for this start of the online pilot project. Online retailers will be limited to delivery in the pilot areas in New York only. Information regarding expansion will be available after this launch is determined successful and other pilot states indicate their readiness to implement.
Amazon and Walmart will participate in the initial pilot launch with ShopRite joining early next week. ShopRite and Amazon are providing service to the New York City area and Walmart is providing online service in upstate New York locations. Additional retailers are slated to participate in the pilot in coming months. The pilot will eventually expand to other areas of New York as well as Alabama, Iowa, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington.
The pilot will test both online ordering and payment. SNAP participants will be able to use their benefits to purchase eligible food items, but will not be able to use SNAP benefits to pay for service or delivery charges. For more information, please visit the SNAP Online Purchasing pilot webpage.
The 2014 Farm Bill authorized USDA to conduct and evaluate a pilot for online purchasing prior to national implementation. The pilot phase is intended to ensure online transactions are processed safely and securely. USDA anticipates all eligible and interested retailers who can meet the requirements to process online SNAP transactions will eventually be able to take part, though the timeline is dependent on the progress of the pilot and any regulations which may need to be issued.