Walmart, Amazon kick off pilot project for shoppers on government assistance

Program will allow low-income shoppers to pay for their groceries online for the first time

In this Nov. 9, 2018, file photo, Walmart associate Alicia Carter fulfills online grocery orders at a Walmart Supercenter in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

Amazon and Walmart on Thursday kicked off a two-year government pilot program allowing low-income shoppers on government food assistance in New York to shop and pay for their groceries online for the first time.

ShopRite will join the two retailers on the program early next week, said the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

The USDA has long required customers using electronic benefits transfer, or EBT, pay for their purchases at the actual time and place of sale. So the move marks the first time SNAP customers can pay for their groceries online.

ShopRite and Amazon are providing the service to the New York City area, and Walmart is providing the service online in upstate New York locations. The agency said the pilot will eventually expand to other areas of New York as well as Alabama, Iowa, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington.

The pilot program will test both online ordering and payment. SNAP participants will be able to use their benefits to purchase eligible food items but will not be able to use SNAP to pay for service or delivery charges, the agency said.

“People who receive SNAP benefits should have the opportunity to shop for food the same way more and more Americans shop for food — by ordering and paying for groceries online,” said USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue. “As technology advances, it is important for SNAP to advance too, so we can ensure the same shopping options are available for both non-SNAP and SNAP recipients.”

Perdue said he will be monitoring how the pilot program increases food access and customer service, specifically for those who have trouble visiting physical stores.

Roughly 38 million individuals receive food stamps in the U.S., according to the USDA. Nearly $52 billion, or 82% of all food stamp dollars, were spent at big box stores and grocery chains in 2017, according to the most recent USDA data.

The 2014 Farm Bill authorized the USDA to conduct and evaluate a pilot program for online purchasing prior to national implementation. The USDA says the move was intended to ensure online transactions are processed safely and securely.

Seattle-based Amazon said those who qualify don’t need to be Prime members to buy groceries with their benefits. They’ll get free access to its AmazonFresh service, which delivers meat, dairy and fresh produce to shoppers’ doorsteps. And they’ll also be able to use Prime Pantry, which delivers packaged goods like cereal and canned food.

However, they’ll need to spend over a certain amount to qualify for free shipping: $50 at AmazonFresh and $25 at Amazon.com. The online shopping giant launched a website, amazon.com/snap , where people can check if they qualify. Amazon said it’s working with the USDA to expand service to other parts of New York state.

Amazon.com Inc. was on the initial list for the government pilot program, and Bentonville, Arkansas-based Walmart Inc. made the list later. The world’s largest retailer, however, in late 2017 had started allowing customers in limited locations to order items through its online grocery pickup service and then pay for it in person at the stores.

“Access to convenience and to quality, fresh groceries shouldn’t be dictated by how you pay,” Walmart said. “This pilot program is a great step forward, and we are eager to expand this to customers in other states where we already have a great online grocery.”

Walmart said that nearly 300 locations with grocery pickup in the states will be part of the USDA government program.

The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Friends, family mourn Salt Spring Island woman killed in suspected murder-suicide

A GoFundMe campaign has been launched for Jennifer Quesnel’s three sons

Vancouver Island volunteers checking in on seniors during pandemic

United Way reports 2,600 phone check-ins and 1,300 ‘virtual visits’

University of Victoria chemist works to create at-home COVID-19 test

The test uses a sample of saliva, results are then read by an app

Welcome to grilling season: Island firefighter talks barbecue safety tips

Grills should be cleaned, serviced prior to use, firefighter says

COLUMN: Graduates, gather no moss like a Rolling Stone

Don’t let COVID-19 get in your way, use it, learn from it

Trudeau offers $14B to provinces for anti-COVID-19 efforts through rest of year

Making a difference in municipalities is a pricey proposition

‘I’m pissed, I’m outraged’: Federal minister calls out police violence against Indigenous people

Indigenous Minister Marc Miller spoke on recent incidents, including fatal shooting of a B.C. woman

Indigenous families say their loved ones’ deaths in custody are part of pattern

Nora Martin joins other Indigenous families in calling for a significant shift in policing

‘Alarmed’: Health critic calls for more data on COVID-19 in trucking industry

Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec said that level of detail is not being collected

UPDATED: Pair accused of ‘horrific’ assault at Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park arrested

Police say Jason Tapp, 30, and Nicole Edwards, 33, did not show up to meet their bail supervisor this week

Black Lives solidarity demonstration fills Nanaimo park

Anti-racism protest held at Maffeo Sutton Park on Friday afternoon

North Island College leads province in transition to online biology labs

Biochemistry, cell biology, genetics among subjects students exploring from home

Gold River organizes a shop local initiative to creatively boost economy

Local purchases can earn shoppers $200 gift certificates to be spent on businesses within Gold River

Vancouver Island’s Simpson staying sharp for the baseball call

Pirates’ Chemainus player scraps initial plans for Houghton College in New York

Most Read