Half of SNAP recipients can buy groceries online

Nearly 20 million food stamp recipients, 53 percent of U.S. SNAP enrollment at latest count, live in states where program participants can buy groceries online, according to USDA figures. Online SNAP purchasing, which began as a pilot project a year ago, has seen phenomenal growth during the coronavirus pandemic as a way to reduce participants’ exposure to the disease.

With the addition of 13 states on Wednesday, the USDA has approved proposals from 36 states and the District of Columbia to make online purchasing available. Sales are currently in operation in 18 states plus the District, which between them account for some 53 percent of SNAP enrollment. The four states with the largest enrollments — California, Texas, Florida, and New York — are operational.

Amazon and Walmart are the only retailers offering online SNAP purchasing in 16 of the participating states. An anti-hunger activist said that some SNAP recipients might not live close enough to an outlet for online purchases to be practicable. The USDA said additional retailers are being added to the program.

The 36 states and the District contain 90 percent of SNAP participants, said the USDA. “Enabling people to purchase foods online will go a long way in helping Americans follow CDC social distancing guidelines and help slow the spread of the coronavirus,” said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.