U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced approval of a request from Arkansas to provide online food purchasing to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) households.

The online food stamp request was also approved for Hawaii, according to the July 23 news release from USDA.

“This approval will allow Arkansas and Hawaii to expedite the implementation of online purchasing with currently authorized SNAP online retailers with a target start date to be announced at a later time,” according to the release.

“Arkansas’ SNAP participation is more than 354,000 individuals, more than 159,000 households, and totals $460 million annually in federal benefits. Hawaii’s SNAP participation is more than 144,000 individuals, more than 74,000 households, and totals $448 million annually in federal benefits,” according to the release.

The program is already available in several communities nationwide. USDA previously announced Kansas, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Carolina, and Utah would also be implementing online purchasing in the near future.

With additional states, more than 90% of all households receiving SNAP will have access to online purchasing, according to the release.

SNAP online purchasing is currently operational in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

The authorized retailers working with all states are Amazon and Walmart. TheFreshGrocer is working with New Jersey and Pennsylvania; ShopRite is working with Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania; and Wrights Market is working with Alabama.

“Multiple stakeholders – notably, state agencies, their third-party processor, and any retailers that wish to participate – must work together to implement online purchasing using SNAP benefits. To ease the process, FNS (Food and Nutrition Service) put together a simplified template for states that want to operate online purchasing and provided guidance to interested retailers, which is available online,” according to the release.

USDA continues to provide technical assistance to all interested stakeholders to ensure implementation plans are thorough and appropriate preliminary testing is conducted to avoid compromising the state’s entire benefit system. Each state, EBT processor, and retailer presents their own mix of challenges so FNS is providing customer service based on each of their specific needs.

Until States are prepared to operate the pilot, USDA recommends utilizing other options that retailers may already provide, such as Pay at Pick-up (also known as “Click and Collect”), where SNAP cardholders can shop online and then pay for their purchase using their EBT card at pick-up. Grocery pickup is already an option that these retailers offer beyond SNAP so they are already thinking through how they can provide a safe environment to do so with the growing concerns around social distancing, according to the release.

Details: https://www.fns.usda.gov/programs.