(NEW YORK) -- New grants, technology enhancements and partnerships are helping grocers and shoppers who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to get more access to more places for online grocery shopping.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) opened applications earlier this month for grants to an organization that will provide technology and systems support for new retailers to offer SNAP online shopping.
The recipient of the $5 million SNAP EBT Modernization Technical Assistance Center grant funded by the American Rescue Plan, will be announced this fall and go toward creating a more diverse set of grocery stores beyond the larger chains with established online shopping programs.
Stacy Dean, the agency's deputy undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services, called online grocery shopping "a vital resource that improves access and convenience for all, including low-income families." She added that this grant has the potential to "improve customer service for SNAP participants, especially those that face barriers in traveling to a physical store."
In more recent efforts to bolster support and expansion for EBT-SNAP payment integration, Instacart announced a new partnership with Albertsons to add more online grocery shopping benefits, including delivery and pickup, to give more families access to affordable food.
The company said it will add 10 new states to the SNAP payment integration, which will now include 49 states plus Washington, D.C., to serve nearly 30 million people experiencing food insecurity.
Delivery and pickup fees will be waived on the first three EBT SNAP orders for each customer with a valid EBT card associated with their Instacart account, according to a representative for the company. Standard rates apply after the first three orders.
Just over three million households using SNAP shopped online in May 2022, which was a substantial increase from the nearly 35,000 households in March 2020. The USDA said this was due in large part to its expansion of the pilot program at the onset of the COVID pandemic, which added nearly 130 retailers in two years.
"At Instacart, our goal is to continue unlocking access to nutritious food for those who need it most. We've long advocated to expand online EBT SNAP acceptance, and we're proud to bring this critical service to people," Sarah Mastrorocco, vice president of access to food and nutrition, said in a statement. "Our partners offer a broad selection of fresh food and pantry staples, and with this expansion, we're giving more families access to nourishment, paired with the convenience of same-day delivery and pickup."
SNAP is accepted for online grocery shopping with Meijer, Price Chopper/Market 32, Tops Friendly Markets and Albertsons, which includes Pavilions, Safeway and Vons.
With these expansions, the brand said it now powers EBT SNAP payments for over 60 retailers that span more than 8,000 stores.
The combined efforts to modernize the SNAP program are set to help more Americans who participate to have the same shopping access as food-secure families. The USDA is currently developing a pilot program that will allow SNAP consumers to use their phones to purchase groceries at checkout and will soon seek states to participate in the pilot.
As a whole, the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) leverages 15 nutrition assistance programs to ensure that children, low-income individuals and families have opportunities for a better future through equitable access to safe, healthy and nutritious food while building a more resilient food system.
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