The USDA this morning announced the launch of a pilot software that will open up online grocery shopping to those on public assistance. During a two-year pilot software, those receiving SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance software) benefits — often referred to as “food stamps” — will be able to shop for groceries from online retailers, including Walmart, Amazon and, soon, ShopRite and others. The pilot is live in brand-new York state at launch, with availability that varies by retailer.
Amazon’s software will encompass the grocery and household selections available on both AmazonFresh and Prime Pantry, the retailer says, without the requirement of a membership fee. This software will operate only in the brand-new York City venue, as will ShopRite, when it joins the pilot next week.
Meanwhile, Walmart’s pilot will cover grocery pickup and delivery in upstate brand-new York locations.
The USDA says other retailers are expected to join the pilot in the months ahead. Eventually, the software will also diversify to other areas in brand-new York and beyond, including Alabama, Iowa, Maryland, Nebraska, brand-new Jersey, Oregon and Washington.
Plans for the software have been in the works for years. The 2014 Farm Bill official the USDA to conduct and evaluate a pilot for online purchasing using SNAP, before rolling out assist nationwide. During this pilot, the goal is to try-out that SNAP benefits are processed safely and securely, and to acceptable understand the challenges involving online acceptance of SNAP.
This is also the first moment that SNAP participants will be able to order grocery delivery online — something that the USDA believes should no longer be considered a luxury.
At times, online retailers can offer lower prices on items, which can advantage budget shoppers. Plus, not all online grocery items are marked up, versus what you can purchase in store. That tends to be more true for swift delivery services like Instacart or Shipt. Walmart, for instance, charges the same prices for its online groceries as it does in stores. And when free delivery is offered, SNAP recipients can save both moment and gas. (SNAP will only cover food items, not delivery or other fees.)
These are all the same perks that any e-commerce shopper enjoys, but can be even acceptable appreciated by those who don’t have a vehicle, can’t afford gas or work multiple jobs trying to make ends meet and don’t have moment to shop.
“People who collect SNAP benefits should have the opportunity to shop for food the same path 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,” said Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, in a statement. “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,” he added.
The pilot software will involve the use of electronic advantage (EBT) cards issued by brand-new York to allow for the online purchasing. Walmart and Amazon are live today, with ShopRite and others joining in the weeks ahead.
Amazon says the software will “dramatically increase access to food for more remote customers and assist to mitigate the public health crisis of food deserts,” — a reference to areas where it’s arduous to find healthy food choices, which leads to Americans opting for convenience foods and swift foods instead. This, in turn, can govern to further health problems down the roadway.
The USDA today proclaimed this is the “first moment SNAP customers can pay for their groceries online.” That’s true, but comes with a caveat. In 2017, Walmart began EBT acceptance for groceries bought online starting in one store in the Houston mart and four more in Boise. Its software supported SNAP and EBT money / TANF but not WIC. However, those customers could only order grocery pickup, not delivery.
The difference between that software and the USDA’s software, Walmart clarified to TechCrunch, is that SNAP recipients would have to pay for their groceries at the pickup venue by choosing “Pay at Pickup” at checkout. Walmart wasn’t actually processing the transactions online, but rather in a parking kiosk at the Walmart store.
Walmart says it has since expanded that earlier SNAP at Pickup software to 40 stores across several states. For the USDA software, however, it has nearly 275 Grocery Pickup stores in the nine eligible states where the pilot is set to run.
“We are excited to be part of the USDA’s pilot software and to be able to make our Grocery Pickup and Delivery service available to more and more people, regardless of their payment mode,” a walmart spokesperson said. “Access to convenience and to standard, fresh groceries shouldn’t be dictated by how you pay. This pilot software is a superb stride forward and we are eager to diversify this to customers in other states where we already have a superb online grocery business.”
Amazon has also rolled out assist to those on public assistance before today.
Other retailers who were selected for the USDA pilot include Dash’s mart, FreshDirect, Hy-Vee, Safeway and Wright’s Markets. They are not yet live.