Thanks to a pilot program from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, families who rely on the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) to buy groceries will soon be able to use online services like Amazon and FreshDirect. When the two-year program goes live this summer, it has the potential to improve access to healthy food choices in communities that are often lacking in options.
"Online purchasing is a potential lifeline for SNAP participants living in urban neighborhoods and rural communities where access to healthy food choices can be limited," USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement. "We're looking forward to being able to bring the benefits of the online market to low-income Americans participating in SNAP."
At launch, the pilot includes national retailers like Amazon, FreshDirect and Safeway, as well as regional chains like ShopRite, Hy-Vee, Hart's Local Grocers and Dash's Market. The program will be available to customers in both rural and urban areas in Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington, but not all items will covered by food stamps. According to the release, the USDA will also evaluating whether local or national services work better for SNAP families and testing various payment methods in the process.
For Amazon, at least, the program also offers a chance to bounce back from last year's report that the company was underserving certain zip codes in six major US cities. While services like AmazonFresh aren't exactly cheap at $14.99 per month (and SNAP users will still have to cover any service or delivery fees), getting back those hours at the grocery store could make all the difference to a busy low-income family.