USDA, Walmart, Amazon pilot online grocery access for SNAP recipients

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 600 views 

Walmart, Amazon and other grocery retailers have teamed up to allow access to online grocery services to recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Officials with the USDA, which oversees the SNAP program, said the two-year pilot program will allow SNAP recipients in New York to take advantage of online grocery services for in-store pickup or delivery, provided they meet the minimum order requirements and cover any ancillary costs related to delivery. USDA officials said the pilot will be expanded to other states in the coming months citing Alabama, Iowa, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington.

There are an estimated 2.7 million SNAP recipients in New York able to take part in the pilot program. ShopRite and Amazon will serve the New York City area, while Walmart will cover upstate locations, according to a news release. The USDA said FreshDirect, Safeway, Hy-Vee and Dash’s Market will join the New York pilot, and the test will eventually expand beyond the Empire State.

The USDA says it eventually wants the more than 38 million Americans on food stamps to be able to make online purchases, which will make it easier for some working moms, as well as the elderly and disabled, to buy food. But the move also opens up the market to online retailers.

“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,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “As technology advances, it is important for SNAP to advance, too.”

According to the USDA, $52 billion worth of food stamps in 2017 went to big-box stores and grocery chains. Walmart is believed to get 40% of the SNAP benefit sales in the U.S., according to insiders. Walmart has not confirmed that number.

Walmart has already been testing similar programs since 2017 that allow SNAP recipients in select markets to order groceries online and then pay when they pick up at the store. That trial is available at 40 locations. The new pilot allows SNAP recipients to pay online, keeping their anonymity intact.

Fayetteville-based Field Agent recently surveyed 592 SNAP recipients across the nation about the possibility for online shopping with their benefits. The respondents overwhelmingly said they would use the online grocery options if they could use their SNAP benefits for payment.

Walmart appeared to the biggest winner with the new access as 92% of respondents said they would use their SNAP benefits at Walmart for online grocery purchases if the service was available. Target and Aldi were mentioned by 34% of the respondents.

Other retailers indexed on the survey include:

  • Kroger 28%
  • Sam’s Club 18%
  • Albertsons 11%
  • Whole Foods 11%
  • Costco 11%
  • Publix 10%
  • H-E-B 6%
  • ShopRite 3%

The same SNAP recipients were asked how likely they would be to purchase groceries online for store pickup or home delivery using the benefit. Minimum order requirements and out-of-pocket delivery fees were to be taken in account by the respondents.

Field Agent reported 51% said they are completely likely to use click and collect or grocery delivery with their SNAP benefits under certain circumstances. Another 22% said they were very likely to take advantage if the options were available to them.

The biggest reason cited by the recipients for wanting to use online grocery ordering and in-store pickup or delivery is the convenience factor, but 41% said they also like the idea of paying without anyone knowing they are using SNAP benefits.

Amazon said it has set up a website for SNAP participants and it plans to provide the shoppers free access to some Prime membership benefits such as AmazonFresh and Prime Pantry.

Amazon and Walmart officials have said they support online grocery access for SNAP participants and the pilot is a step in the right direction.