Media & Entertainment

USDA launches pilot program allowing SNAP recipients to shop for groceries online

Comment

The USDA this morning announced the launch of a pilot program that will open up online grocery shopping to those on public assistance. During a two-year pilot program, those receiving SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits — often referred to as “food stamps” — will be able to shop for groceries from online retailers, including Walmart, Amazon and, soon, ShopRite and others. The pilot is live in New York state at launch, with availability that varies by retailer.

Amazon’s program will encompass the grocery and household selections available on both AmazonFresh and Prime Pantry, the retailer says, without the requirement of a membership fee. This program will operate only in the New York City area, as will ShopRite, when it joins the pilot next week.

Meanwhile, Walmart’s pilot will cover grocery pickup and delivery in upstate New York locations.

The USDA says other retailers are expected to join the pilot in the months ahead. Eventually, the program will also expand to other areas in New York and beyond, including Alabama, Iowa, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington.

Plans for the program have been in the works for years. The 2014 Farm Bill authorized the USDA to conduct and evaluate a pilot for online purchasing using SNAP, before rolling out support nationwide. During this pilot, the goal is to test that SNAP benefits are processed safely and securely, and to better understand the challenges involving online acceptance of SNAP.

This is also the first time that SNAP participants will be able to order grocery delivery online — something that the USDA believes should no longer be considered a luxury.

At times, online retailers can offer lower prices on items, which can benefit budget shoppers. Plus, not all online grocery items are marked up, versus what you can buy in store. That tends to be more true for fast delivery services like Instacart or Shipt. Walmart, for example, charges the same prices for its online groceries as it does in stores. And when free delivery is offered, SNAP recipients can save both time and gas. (SNAP will only cover food items, not delivery or other fees.)

These are all the same perks that any e-commerce shopper enjoys, but can be even better appreciated by those who don’t have a car, can’t afford gas or work multiple jobs trying to make ends meet and don’t have time to shop.

“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. 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,” said Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, in a statement. “We look forward to monitoring how these pilots increase food access and customer service to those we serve, specifically those who may experience challenges in visiting brick and mortar stores,” he added.

The pilot program will involve the use of electronic benefit (EBT) cards issued by New York to allow for the online purchasing. Walmart and Amazon are live today, with ShopRite and others joining in the weeks ahead.

Amazon says the program will “dramatically increase access to food for more remote customers and help to mitigate the public health crisis of food deserts,” — a reference to areas where it’s difficult to find healthy food choices, which leads to Americans opting for convenience foods and fast foods instead. This, in turn, can lead to further health problems down the road.

The USDA today proclaimed this is the “first time SNAP customers can pay for their groceries online.” That’s true, but comes with a caveat. In 2017, Walmart began EBT acceptance for groceries bought online starting in one store in the Houston market and four more in Boise. Its program supported SNAP and EBT Cash / TANF but not WIC. However, those customers could only order grocery pickup, not delivery.

The difference between that program and the USDA’s program, Walmart clarified to TechCrunch, is that SNAP recipients would have to pay for their groceries at the pickup location by choosing “Pay at Pickup” at checkout. Walmart wasn’t actually processing the transactions online, but rather in a parking stall at the Walmart store.

Walmart says it has since expanded that earlier SNAP at Pickup program to 40 stores across several states. For the USDA program, however, it has nearly 275 Grocery Pickup stores in the nine eligible states where the pilot is set to run.

“We are excited to be part of the USDA’s pilot program and to be able to make our Grocery Pickup and Delivery service available to more and more people, regardless of their payment method,” a Walmart spokesperson said. “Access to convenience and to quality, fresh groceries shouldn’t be dictated by how you pay. 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 business.”

Amazon has also rolled out support to those on public assistance before today.

In 2017, it launched a low-cost version of Prime for U.S. customers with a valid EBT card, and later followed by offering low-cost Prime to Medicaid recipients last year.

Other retailers who were selected for the USDA pilot include Dash’s Market, FreshDirect, Hy-Vee, Safeway and Wright’s Markets. They are not yet live.

More TechCrunch

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

1 day ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

1 day ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?

Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.

Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more

We all fall down sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. You need to be in peak physical condition for space travel, but bulky space suits and lower gravity levels can be…

Astronauts fall over. Robotic limbs can help them back up.

Microsoft will launch its custom Cobalt 100 chips to customers as a public preview at its Build conference next week, TechCrunch has learned. In an analyst briefing ahead of Build,…

Microsoft’s custom Cobalt chips will come to Azure next week

What a wild week for transportation news! It was a smorgasbord of news that seemed to touch every sector and theme in transportation.

Tesla keeps cutting jobs and the feds probe Waymo

Sony Music Group has sent letters to more than 700 tech companies and music streaming services to warn them not to use its music to train AI without explicit permission.…

Sony Music warns tech companies over ‘unauthorized’ use of its content to train AI

Winston Chi, Butter’s founder and CEO, told TechCrunch that “most parties, including our investors and us, are making money” from the exit.

GrubMarket buys Butter to give its food distribution tech an AI boost