Feds want to expand retailers that accept food stamps online – The Hill

The story at a glance

  • The federal government is launching a grant program to encourage more retailers to accept the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) online.

  • This is an attempt to give low-income families who participate in SNAP more online shopping options, as many reside in food deserts.

  • These are areas that lack accessible and affordable healthy food options.

The US government is trying to get more retailers to offer online shopping options to Americans who use the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – known as food stamps.

On Thursday, the US Department of Agriculture announced a new $5 million grant program, the SNAP EBT Modernization Technical Assistance Center, which will provide funding to retailers who need help launching online stores that accept SNAP.

The effort is fueled by the growing presence of online shopping, especially for groceries.

Currently, most retailers that offer SNAP online are large grocery chains that already have an established online shopping base, including Walgreens, 7-Eleven, Target, Whole Foods Market, and Kroger.

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However, many SNAP participants find it difficult to get to a physical grocery store, as many reside in food deserts – areas where it is difficult to buy good quality fresh food.

“Online grocery shopping is a vital resource that improves access and convenience for everyone, including low-income families,” said Stacy Dean, USDA Deputy Assistant Secretary for Food, Nutrition and consumer services.

Many local retailers lack the resources to run an e-commerce business, but the USDA hopes this grant will help fill that gap. In addition to funding, the agency intends to offer technical support to help develop existing sites or launch new ones.

The USDA is also developing a pilot program to allow SNAP participants to use their smartphones to purchase groceries at physical stores by allowing them to enter their Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card into a mobile device. .

In May 2022, the USDA reports that just over 3 million SNAP households shopped online – a huge jump from March 2020, when just 35,000 shopped online. The USDA attributes this to the agency’s expansion of its pilot program which resulted in the addition of 130 retailers representing thousands of stores to SNAP.

As of September 30, 2021, the USDA says there are approximately 254,000 businesses eligible to participate in SNAP, ranging from convenience stores to bakeries to large and medium-sized grocery stores.

Under federal rules, a household’s income generally must be at or below 130% of the poverty level to qualify for SNAP, and benefits are distributed based on household size. The program plays a crucial role in helping low-wage workers afford basic food.

In 2021, about 14.49 million Americans lived in households that participated in SNAP, many of whom worked as cashiers, cooks, home health aides and janitors.

USDA’s SNAP EBT Modernization Technical Assistance Center is currently accepting applications through September 6, and selected recipients will be announced in the fall later this year.

Posted Jul 07, 2022

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