USDA to award $5M competitive grant to help expand diversity of retailers that offer SNAP online shopping.
July 12, 2022
The USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service announced it is seeking applications for a $5 million competitive grant to help expand the number of retailers that offer SNAP online shopping. The SNAP EBT Modernization Technical Assistance Center grant will fund an organization to provide extensive support to retailers with the technology and systems needed for SNAP online shopping so that SNAP participants can access a larger diversity of retailers while shopping for groceries online.
This grant is funded by the American Rescue Plan. The request for applications is open now, and all applications must be submitted by 11:59 PM EST, Sept. 6, 2022. The grant will be announced in fall 2022. For more information, visit www.grants.gov.
The grant aligns with broader actions to modernize SNAP and ensure participants have access to the same shopping experience as the rest of America. USDA is currently developing a pilot program to allow SNAP consumers to use their phones to purchase groceries at the checkout counter and will soon seek states to participate in this pilot.
“Online grocery shopping is a vital resource that improves access and convenience for all, including low-income families,” said Stacy Dean, USDA’s deputy undersecretary for food, nutrition, and consumer services. “We are excited about this grant’s potential to provide new and existing retailers with tools to redeem SNAP benefits in ways that improve customer service for SNAP participants, especially those that face barriers in traveling to a physical store.”
The retailers who were first to offer SNAP online purchasing typically were larger grocery chains with established online shopping offerings to use as a foundation. Many retailers, especially smaller ones, face technical challenges or a lack of resources to deploy e-commerce sites, or update existing sites, that allow them to provide online services that meet SNAP requirements. Through this grant opportunity, USDA hopes the technical support provided will help these smaller, independent stores offer online purchasing for SNAP participants. USDA also hopes to see an expansion of stores offering online shipping to give SNAP participants more choice, better serve rural communities, and meet cultural food preferences.
In May 2022, just over 3 million SNAP households shopped online, which is a substantial increase from March 2020, when about 35,000 SNAP households shopped online. This is due in large part to USDA’s swift expansion of the pilot program at the onset of the pandemic, adding approximately 130 retailers, representing thousands of stores, in the past two years.
“SNAP online purchasing is particularly important to the communities we serve because of continued fear of contracting COVID-19 in a grocery store, the risk of exposure to other transmissible diseases, accessibility issues both in store and with transportation, and pre-existing burdens on family caregivers,” said Cyrus Huncharek, senior public policy analyst at the National Disability Rights Network. “We appreciate USDA’s thoughtfulness and stewardship of this crucial technical assistance.”