WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture continues making great strides in bringing the online shopping experience to more of its program participants. USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is working rapidly to expand capacity in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Online Purchasing Pilot — having grown the program exponentially over the past few months. And now the agency is investing in the future of online ordering in its Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), as well.
“Online ordering is – and will continue to be – an important tool for increasing food access in communities across America,” said Deputy Under Secretary of USDA’s Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Brandon Lipps. “USDA is working quickly to provide more SNAP participants with the opportunity to shop for food in the same way many Americans do – online. And now we have set our sights on bringing similar innovation to WIC, continuing our commitment to best serve those who rely on our programs.”
SNAP Online Expansion
USDA is working diligently to bring new smaller, independent grocery stores on board the SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot. Nearly a dozen retailers across several states are currently going through the approval and testing process with FNS and aim to implement online purchasing in the coming months. These include:
In addition, Carlie C’s grocery store in North Carolina recently launched online purchasing with SNAP benefits, joining the five other retailers – listed on the SNAP online purchasing website – already participating.
FNS is also expanding the capacity of SNAP online purchasing by working to bring on another provider of secure PIN entry, which is necessary to protecting both SNAP customers and the overall integrity of the program. The additional capacity will allow more retailers to participate in this program and, in turn, give SNAP customers more shopping options.
Over the past few months, USDA has rapidly expanded SNAP online purchasing to 47 states (including D.C.) – home to more than 97% of SNAP participants. In September 2020, over 1,000,000 SNAP households shopped online. Expansion of the pilot means more SNAP households can now shop for groceries in the same way many non-SNAP households do – online. This helps protect SNAP participants – including the elderly and disabled – from unnecessary exposure to COVID-19. For the latest list of states and retailers currently accepting online SNAP purchases as well as additional background on the pilot, please refer to the SNAP online purchasing website.
WIC Online Debut
For the first time ever, FNS is investing in new and innovative ways to move toward allowing WIC participants to use their benefits to shop for groceries online. FNS awarded the Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition, based in Omaha, Nebraska, $2.5 million to develop and test a safe and secure model for online ordering in WIC.
The Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition will use the three-year, competitive grant to:
- Develop a plan for implementing online ordering (both with in-person and online transactions) in WIC, while protecting the integrity of the program;
- Create the resources necessary for WIC stakeholders to ensure safe and secure implementation;
- Test and implement online ordering in up to five states via sub-grants to WIC State agencies, to be selected at a later date; and
- Evaluate and report on the results to inform future expansion.
FNS administers 15 nutrition assistance programs that leverage American agricultural abundance to ensure children and low-income individuals and families have nutritious food to eat. FNS also co-develops the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which provide science-based nutrition recommendations and serve as the cornerstone of federal nutrition policy. Follow us on Twitter at @USDANutrition.
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