Online grocery shopping will soon be a reality for a lot more families. Amazon, FreshDirect and other online grocers will now accept food stamps in a pilot program done in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The two-year program for families participating in SNAP, or the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, will start this summer. Families in parts of Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington will be eligible for different vendors.
“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.”
Outside of government partnerships, Amazon has recently been experimenting with grocery shopping in a major way. The tech giant’s plan for grocery stores that would not employ cashiers and that would require a smartphone for entry brought up concerns about excluding low-income customers and contributing to inequality.
Amazon is excited to participate in the USDA SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot. We are committed to making food accessible through online grocery shopping, offering all customers the lowest prices possible. Amazons selection and competitive pricing can improve the grocery shopping experience for SNAP participants while helping them extend their benefits further, an Amazon spokesperson said.
Online grocery services from the grocers Safeway, ShopRite, Hy-Vee, Hart’s Local Grocers and Dash’s Market will also be included in the USDA’s program. The USDA is trying to determine whether local grocers or national services like Amazon will work best for families using SNAP, the agency said in a press release.
Customers will only be able to use food stamps to pay for eligible items and they don’t extend to service or delivery fees for online ordering. The pilot program is also intended to figure out whether to allow online payment, or just online ordering with in-person payment.
For some vendors, the pilot program is pretty limited. FreshDirect’s service, for example, will only be available in two zip codes in the Bronx.
The government plans to add additional retailers and eventually offer online ordering for SNAP participants nationwide.
FreshDirect is honored to have been selected by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Online Purchasing Pilot (Pilot),” FreshDirect said in an e-mailed statement. “At FreshDirect, we believe that fresh, high quality and healthy food options should be accessible to all. With the SNAP Pilot, we look forward to bringing the online purchasing option to SNAP clients and positively impacting all the communities that we serve.