SNAP Investment: USDA Offers $5 Million Grant to Expand Online EBT Food Stamp Acceptance

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture aims to expand the number of retailers that offer online shopping for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits through a $5 million competitive grant that is currently seeking applications.

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The SNAP EBT Modernization Technical Assistance Center grant, announced on July 7, will fund an organization that can provide online shopping technology and systems support to retailers, the USDA said on its website. The aim is to give SNAP participants access to a broader selection of retailers while shopping for groceries online.

SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, is a federal program that provides food-purchasing assistance to low-income households. Beneficiaries now pay with electronic benefit transfer cards.

SNAP online purchases are already available at big-box retailers such as Target and Walmart as well as national and regional grocery chains like Wegmans, Kroger, Publix, Food Lion, Safeway, Aldi and ShopRite. Dozens of smaller grocers also offer online SNAP shopping.

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But many grocery retailers still face technical challenges or limited resources to deploy or update e-commerce sites that allow them to provide online services that meet SNAP requirements. The USDA’s new grant program, described here, will provide technical support to help these smaller, independent stores offer online purchasing for SNAP participants.

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“Online grocery shopping is a vital resource that improves access and convenience for all, including low-income families,” Stacy Dean, USDA’s deputy undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services, said in news release. “We are excited about this grant’s potential to provide new and existing retailers with tools to redeem SNAP benefits in ways that improve customer service for SNAP participants, especially those that face barriers in traveling to a physical store.”

Just over 3 million SNAP households shopped online in May 2022 — a big jump from March 2020, when about 35,000 SNAP households shopped online, the USDA said. The increase is mainly due to the USDA’s rapid expansion of the pilot e-commerce program during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“SNAP online purchasing is particularly important to the communities we serve because of continued fear of contracting COVID-19 in a grocery store, the risk of exposure to other transmissible diseases, accessibility issues both in store and with transportation, and pre-existing burdens on family caregivers,” said Cyrus Huncharek, senior public policy analyst at the National Disability Rights Network.

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This grant is funded by the American Rescue Plan. All applications must be submitted by 11:59 PM EST, Sept. 6, 2022. The grant will be announced in fall 2022.

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.

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