NEW YORK — Amazon and Walmart on Thursday kicked off a two-year pilot established by the government to allow low-income shoppers on government food assistance to shop and pay for their groceries online.
The program is starting in New York and will eventually expand to Alabama, Iowa, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington.
ShopRite will join the retailers early next week, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.
The USDA has long required that customers using electronic benefits transfer, or EBT, pay for their purchases at the actual time and place of sale. So the move marks the first time SNAP customers can pay for their groceries online.
ShopRite and Amazon are providing the service to the New York City area, and Walmart is providing the service online in upstate New York locations. The pilot will test both online ordering and payment. SNAP participants will be able to use their benefits to purchase eligible food items but will not be able to use SNAP to pay for service or delivery charges.
“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,” USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement. “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.”
Perdue said he looks forward to monitoring how the pilot program increases food access and customer service to those it serves, specifically those who have trouble visiting stores.
More than 40 million individuals receive food stamps in the U.S., according to the USDA.