So far food stamps online are not a reality, but the USDA has been testing online SNAP stamps since 2014. On September 15, 2016, the Department of Agriculture asked companies to sign up for a pilot program to let people use food stamps to buy groceries online. In 2015, 45 million people used SNAP, also known as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistant Program. Yet with 85% of the U.S. population connected to the internet, there’s still no way for SNAP users to fill their nutrition needs online. The U.S. government is set to change that with a new program that will test an online SNAP system with major food retailers across the country.
You can buy almost anything online, but people still can't use their food stamps online to buy healthy food… https://t.co/gIKrV79rES
— Comida California (@comidacali) September 6, 2016
Food Stamps Online Coming Soon
The progression of food stamps online from concept to reality may take a few years. That said, a clause in the 2014 “Farm Bill” orders the USDA to test a new way for citizens to use food stamps on the internet. The USDA has used the time since then to lay the groundwork for a pilot program. So far internet security has formed one of many challenges.
The government agency has called on U.S. grocery chains to apply for the pilot online food stamp program in three states. The USDA will partner with three companies to work out the kinks. So far, the food stamps online initiative won’t cover the cost of delivery or other service fees.
When Will We Have Food Stamps Online?
Even the test program to provide use of food stamps online won’t happen within the next few months. The USDA will launch the pilot program in the summer of 2017. That program will go on for two years before being evaluated. After an independent review, officials will potentially expand the program to cover the entire country.
There’s some momentum in the government and the corporate world to speed up the drive for food stamps online. Senator Cory Booker and Representatives Barbara Lee and Tim Ryan have asked the USDA to speed up its internet food stamp drive. An startup called Thrive Market also gathered 310,000 signatures to petition the USDA to accelerate the program.
“In a country where 23.5 million people live in food deserts,” says the petition, “requiring the use of benefits in person creates an arbitrary barrier (to proper nutrition).”
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