Walmart, Amazon test online grocery sales for SNAP recipients

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced that for the first time in the program's history, Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants will be able to purchase groceries online. The new option will be available under a two-year pilot program that has been launched in New York. Both Amazon and Walmart are participating in the test, according to the USDA.

The new pilot was announced by the US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, who explained that the USDA will monitor the test for 'program integrity.' Data acquired over the next two years will help the agency make decisions when the time comes to expand the online shopping option to a larger number of SNAP recipients.

Secretary Perdue said during his announcement:

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. 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.

As of mid-April, Walmart and Amazon were both participating in the new shopping option, which is accessible to SNAP households in New York State that have electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards. ShopRite also plans to join in this test, with Amazon and ShopRite covering New York City and Walmart covering upstate New York.

The USDA has already named future locations in the pipeline for the online shopping expansion, including Oregon, Washington, New Jersey, Nebraska, Iowa, Alabama, and Maryland. Under this new support, SNAP recipients can both order and pay for their groceries online for eligible food items; the benefits can not be used to pay for any related delivery or service charges, though.

Though it can't provide a precise timeline right now, the USDA anticipates a large number of retailers eventually being given the option of accepting online SNAP payments. Having this new option is expected to help a large number of individuals who are unable to physically travel to a grocery store, including the elderly and disabled.