The 45 million people who rely on food stamps will soon have a way to buy groceries online if a government test program works out.
The Department of Agriculture, which manages the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, is working on a pilot project to allow beneficiaries to shop without leaving home.
The department this week started the search for as many as five online retailers in three states for a two-year trial starting next summer, according to CNN Money. Food stamps won’t pay for delivery or service fees for online purchases.
The food stamp program cost $68.7 billion in 2015, slightly less than in the prior year. Food stamp spending doubled from $37 billion in 2008 to $75 billion by 2012 as the country recovered from the deepest recession in 80 years.
Senator Cory Booker and Reps. Tim Ryan and Barbara Lee this week sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack asking to speed up efforts to digitize food stamps.
"It would help us move toward a hunger-free and more nutritious America," they wrote. "Unfortunately, many of our governmental policies and programs have not kept pace with the dramatic improvement in healthy food access that technology offers."
Government officials expect the program to help the disabled, elderly and others who can’t leave home, according to the Christian Science Monitor. Healthier food may also become more available to people who can’t get to a grocery store.
In 2012, food equity researcher Mari Gallagher found that in the Pullman and Roseland communities near Chicago, 85 percent to 87 percent of SNAP-authorized food sellers didn’t provide enough nutritional variety, according to The Chicago Tribune.
"Many families of all economic levels are busy and don't have time to shop. This helps bring SNAP recipients more into the mainstream. We're very excited about it," Gallagher told the newspaper.
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