HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania residents enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will be able to order groceries online beginning in early June.
The coronavirus outbreak has prompted many people to look to online grocery ordering as a way to limit exposure to others, Pennsylvania Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller said.
“But SNAP recipients were not able to do so due to federal restrictions on SNAP and e-commerce,” Miller said. “In most cases, SNAP recipients do not have flexibility to use online purchasing for grocery delivery or curbside pick-up, potentially putting health and safety at risk during this health crisis.”
There were 1.86 million people signed up for food stamp benefits in Pennsylvania in April.
Pennsylvania was one of 13 states that the USDA added to the pilot program allowing residents to use food stamps for online ordering. Others added Wednesday include: Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Virginia.
The program will now cover 36 states. About 90% of people getting food stamps live in states where online grocery ordering will be allowed, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue said.
Some grocery stores in the state have already been allowing customers to order their food online then accepting payment at the curbside. Even so, The move to allow for online payment is a step forward for customers who are trying to limit their exposure to others in order to reduce their chances of contracting coronavirus, Alexa Baloga, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association said in an interview last month.
The only stores initially participating in the program are Walmart, Amazon and ShopRite, a chain in southeastern Pennsylvania.
Residents in Philadelphia would be able to use food stamps to order groceries through Amazon Fresh, which provides delivery. Elsewhere in the state, Amazon grocery orders would come through the mail, Catie Kroon, an Amazon spokeswoman said.
In announcing the expansion, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the federal government intends to see that more grocery stores will be added to the program.
Representatives of Pennsylvania grocery chains contacted for this story said they hope to get added to the program.
“That’s why the USDA’s announcement regarding accepting online SNAP payment in PA is so important. We are interested in offering the online ordering option to SNAP customers and are currently determining the implementation requirements,” Weis Markets spokesman Dennis Curtin said.
Giant Foods is researching whether it can offer the same service, said Ashley Flower, a spokeswoman for that chain said.
“At this time, we are not able to accept SNAP as a form of payment” for online ordering, she said.”But are working toward being able to do so.”