SNAP online pilot will increase food access

by Celia Meredith

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has selected seven retailers in seven states for a pilot program designed to allow Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants to purchase their groceries online. We are thrilled that Oregon will be one of the participating pilot states, because we anticipate this will decrease transportation barriers and increase access to food security.

The two-year pilot will begin August 2017, and is expected to lay the foundations of a future expansion of online grocery purchases using SNAP, making this opportunity more accessible to low-income individuals. The retail partner here in Oregon is, part of Albertsons Companies.

This innovative SNAP online purchasing pilot is a move in the right direction. From focus groups Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon conducted in Portland in 2016, we know that reliable transportation to an affordable grocery store supports food security. Individuals who lack reliable transportation or do not live near an affordable grocery store often experience barriers to a lack of nutritious food choices.

One SNAP participant shared that without reliable transportation, not only was it difficult to get to an affordable grocery store, but it was also difficult to carry food home. “I would do anything to get to [my grocery store], but when I didn’t have a car, it would have been a struggle. I would have had to walk. There’s no bus to that one. I would have to walk with my daughter and her stroller, and we can’t shop how we needed because we have nowhere to put the groceries.”

Allowing SNAP participants to use their benefits online will make nutritious food options more easily accessible. Seniors, people with disabilities and individuals living in food deserts will greatly benefit from being able to purchase groceries online for home delivery using SNAP benefits (SNAP benefits cannot be used on delivery costs). Expanding the locations and ways in which individuals can utilize their SNAP benefits will also help individuals better access culturally appropriate foods. Even for in-store pick-up, being able to purchase food online using SNAP benefits will allow participants of the program to access food with less stress and greater ease, and increase access to food in our communities in Oregon. More details to come on locations of the Safeway stores participating in SNAP online.