According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), over 44 million people used the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in 2016. That's 14 percent of the U.S. population (half of which are children). Since all shopping is shifting from stores to online, it only makes sense to extend SNAP to online grocery stores.
In comes Amazon. They've already been testing Amazon Go, a project that could change the way we shop for groceries. And now they're working with the USDA to create an online shopping system that benefits low-income shoppers.
Amazon will start accepting Electronic Benefit Transfer cards (food stamps) this summer. It's a part of a pilot program that the USDA created to reduce food deserts (impoverished areas with limited access to fresh food). The two-year program will be available for Amazon shoppers in New York, New Jersey and Maryland.
Even though this opens up new grocery shopping opportunities for low-income families, there will still be some challenges getting food from Amazon. To get free delivery, you must be an Amazon Prime member ($99 per year or $10.99 per month) or you need a minimum order of $49. Amazon Prime Fresh, a service that delivers fresh, perishable items is an additional $14.99 per month for Prime members. The EBT cards can only be used for the cost of the food and cannot be put toward the cost of membership or delivery.
Amazon is not the only online grocery store that will be participating in the two-year program. A total of seven grocery stores will begin accepting EBT cards for online transactions. Safeway stores in Washington, Oregon, and Maryland and ShopRite stores in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Marland, are just a few of the participating chains and locations.
If you don't qualify for SNAP but you still want to save money, check out these six ways to slash your grocery bill. You can try apps like iBotta and ShopKick too; use them to earn rebates and gift cards, respectively. Also, listen to this podcast we did a few months ago about one woman who used extreme couponing to save $11,000 on a $15,000 annual grocery bill. It completely changed her family's life!