Posted on Wednesday, January 11th, 2017 at 7:00 am
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has created a pilot program that can help people who receive SNAP benefits to purchase healthy foods. The goal appears to be to give more options to people who live in “food deserts”.
SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. In the past, the program was called Food Stamps. People were given stamps that they used to pay for their groceries. Today, people who receive SNAP benefits get a certain amount of money on an EBT card. The SNAP program is for people who are very low-income.
The USDA describes SNAP this way: “As the nation’s first line of defense against hunger, SNAP helps put food on the table for millions of low income families and individuals every month and has never been more critical to the fight against hunger. SNAP is a vital supplement to the monthly food budget for more than 43 million low-income individuals. Nearly half of SNAP participants are children, 10 percent are over 60 and more than 40 percent of recipients live in households with earnings.”
The USDA has created a pilot program designed to enable SNAP participants to buy groceries online. This decision was made to help people who live in communities where access to fresh produce and other healthy food choices is limited. For example, a person who lives in a area that does not have any grocery stores would have to rely on getting their groceries from convenience stores. Those stores don’t typically have a lot of healthy foods to choose from.
The pilot program is slated to start this summer and will last for two years. At first, the pilot program will be testing online ordering and payment. The USDA says the online payment part of the program presents technical and security challenges that they will need to fully examine before they can offer the program nationally. SNAP online purchases require a higher level of security than do most other online purchases.
Here are the retailers that are participating in the SNAP pilot program:
* Amazon – Maryland, New Jersey, New York
* FreshDirect – New York
* Safeway – Maryland, Oregon, Washington
* ShopRite – Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania
* Hy-Vee – Iowa
* Hart’s Local Grocers – New York (based in Rochester)
* Dash’s Market – New York (based in Buffalo)
The USDA anticipates being able to add more retailers to the program. Eventually, the goal is to allow SNAP participants, nationwide, to be able to use their benefits to make online purchases that will help them to obtain healthy foods.