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Amazon, FreshDirect, and others begin to accept food stamps in a pilot program

Technology and accessibility may finally be going hand in hand.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a new pilot program that will allow Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants to buy their groceries online. Starting this summer, families who depend upon food stamps will be able to take advantage of online grocers like Amazon, FreshDirect, and other local stores that offer a digital shopping option.

“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. “We’re looking forward to being able to bring the benefits of the online market to low-income Americans participating in SNAP.”

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Currently slated to take place over the course of two years in seven states (encompassing both rural and urban areas), the new initiative hopes to make healthful and affordable food options available to a wider demographic. “Amazon is excited to participate in the USDA SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot,” a company spokesperson said. “We are committed to making food accessible through online grocery shopping, offering all customers the lowest prices possible. Amazon’s selection and competitive pricing can improve the grocery shopping experience for SNAP participants while helping them extend their benefits further.”

The pilot will examine the feasibility of both online ordering and payment with food stamps, as the USDA noted that technical and security challenges have yet to be fully addressed. As it stands, SNAP participants can only use their benefits to purchase goods, but won’t be able to use the stamps to cover the cost of delivery charges or other services. Still, the program will likely come as a boon to the 43 million Americans in SNAP, who may not even have time to visit a physical grocery store.

“FreshDirect is honored to have been selected by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Online Purchasing Pilot (Pilot),” FreshDirect said in an e-mailed statement. “At FreshDirect, we believe that fresh, high quality and healthy food options should be accessible to all. With the SNAP Pilot, we look forward to bringing the online purchasing option to SNAP clients and positively impacting all the communities that we serve.”