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USDA Launches Online SNAP Purchases for New Yorkers in Pilot Program

Photo Credit: Dan Gold

by John-Mark de Palma

A test segment of the 38 million Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP participants who receive vouchers to buy food and groceries at supermarkets and farmers markets began purchasing food online at Walmart, Shoprite, and Amazon on April 18. New York State will spearhead a 2-year pilot program for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, with Alabama, Iowa, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington to follow.

ShopRite and Amazon/AmazonFresh, via a SNAP online portal, are providing service to the New York City area and Walmart Grocery is providing online service in upstate New York locations. SNAP EBT payments are processed through their websites. This new partnership will be the first time low-income shoppers can use their benefits to shop online. SNAP participants will be able to purchase foods such as bread, cereal, fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, poultry, and dairy products. The USDA notes that SNAP benefits will not be available to pay for service or delivery charges associated with online orders. 

“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,” Secretary Perdue said in a recent statement.  Participants in the government program receive benefits on payment cards, which can be used like debit cards to pay for groceries. The average payment is just $133 per month and a family of four may receive up to $465 a month for food, averaging between $1.43 and $1.58 per meal, per person. Contextually, a Quarter Pounder with Cheese at McDonalds averages $3.79.

According to the USDA, this online program could revolutionize access for its participants, more than half of whom experience food insecurity. About one-third of the low-income households participating in SNAP usually shop for food within a mile of their home. But for some, the average trip to the market may be 14 miles or more, which officials say leads to a lower SNAP redemption rate of 53% in rural areas vs 64% in urban areas. The online program will also allow seniors, disabled and chronically ill participants, who account for more than 6% or 2.2+ million members, greater access to food purchases.  In 2017, the USDA reports that $52 billion worth of food stamps went to grocery chains and big-box stores.

Catholic Charities of New York offers free SNAP assistance at their toll-free hotline, 888-744-7900 or on the CCCS website

SNAP Benefits Assistance | Catholic Charities Community Services 
SNAP FAQs (Eligibility, Application) | U.S. Department of Agriculture 
SNAP Benefits & Food Program (NYC) | NYC HRA 
Food Pantry and Soup Kitchen Information | Catholic Charities of New York 
Food Pantry or Soup Kitchen Locator 311 | City of New York 

Related Content: 

SNAP Participants can buy Groceries Online for the First Time | Pacific Standard 
USDA Launches SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot | U.S. Department of Agriculture 

Amazon and Walmart are Testing a Program to Accept Food Styamps Online | Vox
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): Online Purchasing Pilot | U.S. Department of Agriculture 
New York stores start allowing SNAP recipients to buy groceries online | lohud