Retailers who are willing to work with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program participants to purchase their groceries online are sought to participate in a two-year pilot. The 2014 Farm Bill mandated a pilot be conducted to test the possibility of allowing retail food stores to accept SNAP benefits through online transactions. Up to five retailers in three states will be selected for this pilot and, once selected, the pilot is slated to begin next summer after the EBT processor completes system development work to allow for online transactions.
"Online purchasing shows great promise to improve access to healthy food for SNAP participants living in neighborhoods and rural or tribal areas without grocery stores," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "Online purchasing will also help those who are unable to access a grocery store due to a disability or lack of transportation."
Since the passage of the Farm Bill, USDA has been working to lay the groundwork to put together the complex technical infrastructure required for this pilot. Online payment presents technical and security issues that will be tested in this controlled, limited way prior to nationwide expansion.
"Ensuring the security of SNAP's taxpayer-funded benefits is paramount as we look toward expanding access through the online marketplace. We will continue to work closely with our state and EBT processing partners on this pilot so that we can bring this option to SNAP households in an efficient and secure manner," Vilsack said.
For households to make online purchases, the pilot requires retailer volunteers to provide service that is secure, private and easy to use. As with all SNAP purchases, customers participating in the online pilot will only be able to use their SNAP benefits for eligible food purchases – not to cover any related charges, such as delivery or service fees. Retailers interested in participating should consult the online purchasing pilot Request for Volunteers Application Package available for download from the FNS public website.