Update: Last Thursday more details were announced in the digitalization of the SNAP program. We learned that Amazon, Fresh Direct, and five other retailers will be partaking in the online program. The program will launch in summer of 2017, run for two years, and be available to participants in the following states: Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Washington, and Iowa.
Participants in the SNAP program living in these seven states will be able to use food stamps to buy the same things online that they would normally be able to purchase at a grocery store. The International Business times notes that "The program will not cover additional costs associated with the online service or delivery of goods."
If the program is successful after two years, the USDA intends to add more retailers and expand to SNAP users across the country.
This article was originally published on September 19, 2016, at 2:15 p.m. EST.
Currently, people entitled to SNAP benefits (commonly referred to as food stamps) can only be used at brick-and-mortar stores and other physical locations such as farmers markets that accept EBT cards. The thing is, a lot of the people who use SNAP live in food deserts, which makes it difficult to get to these designated spots.
The USDA defines a "food desert," or "low-access community," as a location with at least 500 people and/or at least 33 percent of the population who reside more than one mile away (10 miles for more rural areas) from a supermarket or large grocery store.
All this might change soon, though, as the USDA prepares to pilot a two-year online SNAP program.
After receiving pressure from Senator Cory Booker and Reps. Tim Ryan and Barbara Lee, as well as a group of online retailers led by Thrive Market, the USDA announced last Thursday that its pilot program would launch next summer. The pilot program will partner with five retailers in three states and will hopefully expand access to nutritious food items to low- and no-income Americans.