Gradual rollout plans of an online Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) have been replaced by much more expedient efforts amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) launched a two-year online purchasing pilot in April 2019 and, in January of this year, only residents in New York and Washington states could benefit.
Fast-forward less than six months, and now residents who rely on SNAP benefits — once known as "food stamps" — can shop online for their groceries in 36 states and Washington, D.C.
Amazon has been one of the retailers working with the USDA for quick implementation.
Amazon customers can shop for grocers across three services — Amazon Grocery, Amazon Pantry and Amazon Fresh — with EBT (electronic benefit transfer) payment and free shipping. Amazon has also waived the Prime membership requirement for SNAP customers to access Amazon Fresh, meaning that they can choose from fresh produce and meat where available.
The 36 states where SNAP recipients can use their benefits through Amazon are Alabama, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming, along with the District of Columbia.
“We are expanding new flexibilities and innovative programs to make sure Americans across this country have safe and nutritious food during this national emergency,” said Sonny Perdue, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. “Enabling people to purchase foods online will go a long way in helping Americans follow CDC social-distancing guidelines and help slow the spread of the coronavirus. USDA is mandated with the noble goal of feeding Americans when they need it most, and we are fulfilling that mission with new innovative programs during this national emergency.”
In the past week, the USDA has also approved South Carolina, Utah, Mississippi and Delaware to accept SNAP benefits online. A complete list of states, along with other participating retailers such as Walmart, ShopRite, The Fresh Grocer and Wright's Markets Inc. can be found on the USDA website.
Seattle-based Amazon is No. 2 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer's 2020 list of the top food retailers in North America.