FNS grant to study using WIC benefits online
Arlington, VA – The National Grocers Association (NGA), the trade association representing the independent supermarket industry, applauds the strides the U.S. Department of Agriculture is making to bring the online shopping experience to more of its program participants.
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is working rapidly to expand capacity in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Online Purchasing Pilot, having grown the program exponentially over the past few months. And now the agency is investing in the future of online ordering in its Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) as well.
USDA is working diligently to bring new smaller, independent grocery stores on board the SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot. Nearly a dozen retailers across several states are currently going through the approval and testing process with FNS and aim to implement online purchasing in the coming months.
“We were pleased to see such a sizeable representation of independent grocers on this list given the essential role these retailers have in their communities and the longstanding public private partnership that has helped to strengthen the SNAP food delivery system,” said NGA President and CEO Greg Ferrara. “Consumer demand for online services during the COVID-19 pandemic has increased tremendously, and while many independent grocers have launched innovative solutions to meet this demand and better serve their communities, it is critical that independent grocers have the ability to offer eligible food products and process SNAP payments online. I applaud FNS for its diligent work to expand this important program, and NGA looks forward to working together with our federal partners to bring more independent grocers onboard so that they can help to meet the needs of their communities, whether those services are provided online or in-store.”
NGA member retailers on the USDA’s latest approval list include Brookshire’s in Texas, Piggly Wiggly in Alabama, Reasor’s in Oklahoma, St. Marys Galaxy in West Virginia and Superlo Foods in Tennessee.
In addition, NGA member, Carlie C’s IGA in North Carolina, recently launched online purchasing with SNAP benefits, joining the five other retailers – listed on the SNAP online purchasing website – already participating. NGA member Wright’s Market in Alabama was a participant in the Online SNAP pilot project earlier this year, along with ShopRite stores in the northeast.
Over the past few months, USDA has rapidly expanded SNAP online purchasing to 47 states (including D.C.) – home to more than 97% of SNAP participants. Dozens of independent grocers are interested in offering this service to their customers, and many have applied to FNS to participate, but barriers to participation include technical challenges, a testing process that must be performed with each individual store location, financial constraints to launch and continuously operate the program, and a lengthy application and approval process.
NGA has been serving as a critical partner in helping independent grocers maneuver the application process, while also actively lobbying Congress and the administration to create a level playing field for independent grocers in SNAP Online Purchasing.
NGA supports passage of S. 4202 and H.R. 7535, the Expanding SNAP Options Act, legislation introduced by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL), to make it more technically and financially feasible for independent grocers to participate in SNAP Online Purchasing.
Additionally, FNS is investing in ways to allow WIC participants to use their benefits to shop for groceries online. FNS awarded $2.5 million to the Omaha-based Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition to develop and test a secure model for online ordering in WIC.
NGA commends FNS for its robust efforts to expand these programs throughout the pandemic and looks forward to working with USDA to continue expansion of the SNAP Online Purchasing program to more independent grocers so that they can help to feed Americans when they need it most.