The USDA Food and Nutrition Service is accepting applications for a $5 million grant, funded by the American Rescue Plan, to increase the number of retailers offering online shopping for customers who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The grant will provide funding to an organization that supports retailers as they adopt technology to align with SNAP online shopping.
Like so many consumers during the COVID pandemic, SNAP users moved their shopping online: 35,000 SNAP households shopped online in March 2020, but that number increased to more than 3 million in May 2022. The USDA is seeking to promote SNAP ecommerce adoption among a more diverse pool of retailers, particularly smaller businesses that face challenges such as lack of resources to deploy or update online sites. Currently, the USDA is developing a SNAP mobile shopping pilot program that will allow program beneficiaries to use their phones to purchase groceries.
“Online grocery shopping is a vital resource that improves access and convenience for all, including low-income families,” said Stacy Dean, USDA Deputy Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services in a statement. “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.”
While the USDA had begun working on ecommerce initiatives in 2019 and expanded SNAP online shopping to approximately 130 retailers and thousands of stores since the onset of the COVID pandemic, the agency hopes to expand a current pool that includes leading retailers such as Amazon, Kroger and Walmart. The program expansion is designed to serve more rural communities and create additional options to meet cultural food preferences.
“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 in a statement. “We appreciate USDA’s thoughtfulness and stewardship of this crucial technical assistance.”
Additional information can be found at Grants.gov. Applications must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. (Eastern) on Sept. 6, 2022, and the grant recipient will be announced in fall 2022.