The USDA is creating a pilot program that will enable SNAP participants in certain areas to purchase groceries online and have them delivered.
More than 1.5 million people in D.C, Maryland and Virginia depend on the federal government's SNAP program, which used to be known as food stamps. But they aren't allowed to use those funds to purchase groceries online.
“I tried to get home delivery and can't do it because federal law has stated they won't take the SNAP program as far as delivery is concerned,” said David Martin of Silver Spring, Maryland, who uses a wheelchair.
The convenience of ordering groceries online and having them delivered would be a life-changer for him, but the USDA, which runs the SNAP program, prohibits participants from using their EBT cards to purchase groceries online mostly due to technical and security challenges.
“I want it easier on me, because it's a lot of wear and tear on me as well,” Martin said. “It takes almost a whole day to do it.”
NBC4 Responds learned four retailers participating in the pilot program are in Maryland: Amazon, Safeway, ShopRite and Wal-Mart.
Senior Services of Alexandria, Virginia, is the only nonprofit in the region accepting SNAP payments for its Groceries to Go program, through which volunteers deliver senior citizens every other Thursday.
The USDA pilot program will have some restrictions: SNAP participants will only be able to use their benefits to purchase eligible items online, not to pay for service or delivery charges.
It’s still worth the convenience, Martin said.
“I wouldn't have to use Metro Access,” he said. “I wouldn't have to bother someone at customer service and have someone traipse around. So let's make it easier for everybody.”
The USDA originally planned to launch the pilot program this summer, but it's taking longer to set up than anticipated. Now they expect to begin sometime next year.