Sentinel Grove Cottage | USDA to invest in expanding SNAP online shopping

FROM THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE (USDA) FOOD AND NUTRITION SERVICE – The USDA announced on July 7, 2022 that it was seeking applications for a $5 million competitive grant to help increase the number of retailers that offer SNAP Online (aka Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) purchases. The SNAP Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) Modernization Technical Assistance Center Grant will fund an organization to provide extensive support to retailers with the technology and systems needed for SNAP online purchases so that SNAP participants can access to a wider variety of retailers when shopping for groceries online.

“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. “We are excited about the potential of this grant to provide new and existing retailers with tools to use SNAP benefits in ways that improve customer service for SNAP participants, especially those who face barriers getting to a store. physical.”

The retailers that were the first to offer SNAP online shopping were usually large grocery chains with established online shopping offers to use as a base. Many retailers, especially smaller ones, face technical challenges or a lack of resources to deploy e-commerce sites or update existing sites, allowing them to deliver online services that meet the requirements. SNAP. Through this grant opportunity, the USDA hopes that the technical support provided will help these small, independent stores bring online shopping to SNAP participants. The USDA also hopes to see an expansion of stores offering online delivery to give SNAP participants more choices, better serve rural communities and accommodate cultural food preferences.

In May 2022, just over 3 million SNAP households made online purchases, which is a substantial increase from March 2020, when approximately 35,000 SNAP households made online purchases. This is largely due to the USDA’s rapid expansion of the pilot program at the start of the pandemic, adding approximately 130 retailers, representing thousands of stores, over the past two years.

“Purchasing SNAP online is especially important to the communities we serve due to the ongoing fear of contracting COVID-19 in a grocery store, risk of exposure to other communicable diseases, accessibility issues both in store and with transportation, and pre-existing burdens on family caregivers,” said Cyrus Huncharek, senior public policy analyst at the National Disability Rights Network. “We appreciate USDA’s attention and stewardship for this critical technical assistance.”

This grant is funded by the American Rescue Plan. The call for applications opened on July 7 and all applications must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. EST, September 6, 2022. The grant will be announced in fall 2022. For more information, please visit www.grants.gov.

This grant aligns with broader actions to modernize SNAP and ensure participants have access to the same shopping experience as the rest of America. The USDA is currently developing a pilot program to allow SNAP consumers to use their phones to buy groceries at the checkout and will soon be looking to have states participate in this pilot.

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) leverages its 15 nutrition assistance programs to ensure children, low-income individuals, and families have opportunities for a better future through access to safe, healthy and nutritious food, while creating more resilient diets. system. Under the leadership of Secretary Tom Vilsack, FNS fights to end food and nutrition insecurity for all through programs such as SNAP, School Meals and WIC. FNS also provides science-based nutritional recommendations through the co-development of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. To learn more, visit www.fns.usda.gov and follow @USDANutrition.

The Farm Bill of 2014 (PL 113-79) mandated a pilot project to test the feasibility and implications of allowing retail grocery stores to accept SNAP benefits through online transactions. For households to be able to shop online, the online shopping and payment driver must be secure, private, easy to use, and provide support similar to that found for SNAP transactions in a retail store. Benefits cannot be used to pay charges of any kind, such as delivery, service or convenience charges. The pilot will involve at least five online retailers in at least three states. The goal is to ensure that the basic infrastructure necessary to perform online SNAP transactions operates in a safe and secure manner.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) online purchases increased significantly in 2020

By Jordan W. Jones, USDA, ERS, Amber Waves, July 6, 2021

The SNAP Online Shopping Pilot allows households in participating states to use their SNAP benefits to purchase groceries online from authorized participating retailers. The pilot project was mandated by the 2014 Farm Bill and was intended to test the feasibility of safe and secure online SNAP benefit redemptions. Online transactions are subject to the same requirements as in-person service transactions. Benefits can only be spent on food at home and cannot be used for additional online grocery expenses, such as tips or fees. SNAP online grocery purchases can be delivered or picked up like other online grocery purchases.

The USDA, Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) initially selected eight states to participate in the SNAP Online Shopping Pilot in coordination with select retailers and state agencies. The pilot originally launched in New York State in April 2019. It expanded next to Washington in January 2020, followed by Alabama, Oregon and Iowa in early March 2020 and the Nebraska on April 1, 2020. In response to the outbreak of the Coronavirus ( COVID-19) pandemic and the need for social distancing, FNS has worked with states and retailers to rapidly expand the pilot to additional states, providing access to more recipients of SNAP and Electronic Pandemic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) – a program providing the benefits spent much like SNAP for households whose children miss free or reduced-price school meals in person. From March to June 2020, the pilot quickly grew from five states to 39 (including Washington, DC). It is estimated that more than 90% of SNAP participants lived in states that had implemented the pilot in June. As of the end of 2020, the pilot was live in 47 states (including Washington, DC). The SNAP online purchase then became available in Maine in March 2021. Three remaining states (Alaska, Louisiana, and Montana) have yet to implement the pilot as of June 2021.

As driver access has expanded throughout 2020, so has the use of online SNAP purchases. In February 2020, the first month for which data is available, households redeemed less than $3 million in SNAP benefits online, representing less than 0.1% of all benefits redeemed that month. This value grew particularly rapidly through June 2020, when online SNAP and P-EBT redemptions totaled $154 million, or 1.6% of total redemptions. Online trading increased each subsequent month through December 2020 to $246 million, or 86 times February’s value. In addition to expanding access to the pilot, this growth reflects other factors, such as changing demand for online grocery shopping caused by the pandemic. Despite this rapid growth, online redemptions still represented a small share compared to in-store redemptions – just 3.0% of the total $8.1 billion in benefits redeemed in December 2020. Overall , households redeemed $1.5 billion in benefits online from February to December 2020.

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