This article originally appeared in the July 2020 edition of Senior Scope. Article by Seth Thomas. Photo courtesy Unsplash.

Massachusetts residents who are enrolled in SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) can, for the first time, buy groceries online using their Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards. Customers can purchase SNAP-eligible foods at Amazon and Walmart’s websites and smartphone apps.

Federal rules generally prohibit online purchases with an EBT card. However, the online purchasing program, which launched in New York last year, came to the Commonwealth this summer to help consumers shop safely during the ongoing pandemic.

Data earlier this year from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic’s monthly Consumer Price Index report confirmed what many shoppers had suspected: the pandemic was inflating the cost of groceries. In the month of April, the average consumer paid about 2.6 percent more for groceries, which was the largest one-month increase since 1974.

In May, the Baker-Polito Administration announced it would be investing $56 million to combat food insecurity for some Massachusetts families and individuals as a result of COVID-19.

“While COVID-19 has had a statewide impact, some of our communities and residents who have historically experienced food insecurity have been even more disproportionately impacted,” said Baker in a release. “Our goal is to use this funding to meet a greater demand for nutritional assistance among vulnerable populations and those struggling with the economic impacts of the pandemic.”

According to the state, applications for SNAP benefits have increased by 400 percent (or about 80,000 new households) since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis.

The new program, which officially launched on May 29, only applies to Amazon and Walmart, but more retailers may be added in the future.

SNAP-eligible food items include fruits and vegetables; meat, poultry, and fish; dairy products; breads and cereals; snack foods and non-alcoholic beverages. Customers cannot use SNAP benefits to cover the cost of delivery. You must pay for fees with another form of payment, like a credit card or gift card.

The state has released additional information highlighting the differences between the two retailers:

Using SNAP via Walmart:

  • Is there a delivery fee? Fees vary from $7.95 to $9.95. There is an option to pay a flat fee of $98 per year for all fees.
  • How do I get food? Curbside pickup (available at the Walmart in Dartmouth) or delivery at some locations.
  • How do I know what is available? At checkout, the payment screen will show what is SNAP-eligible.
  • How do I get help? Visit www.walmart.com/help.

 

Using SNAP via Amazon:

  • Is there a deliver fee? Free if you spend $35 or more
  • How do I get food? Delivery only.
  • How do I know what is available? Look for “SNAP EBT Eligible” label next to the item’s name.
  • How do I get help? amazon.com/help.

 

Check your eligibility for SNAP benefits and apply at DTAConnect.com.

 

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Coastline does not deny delivery of service
to any person on the basis of age, color, religion, gender,
national origin, ancestry, physical/mental handicaps,
and sexual preference, who otherwise meets the eligibility criteria
for the respective programs.