Historic change in SNAP benefits raises concerns: how it will affect you starting this month (2024)

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The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), run by the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), is making some interesting changes. They’re expanding their online shopping options to include two new retailers: Thrive and DashMart. Let’s see what this means for users.

New shops for SNAP

Currently, SNAP recipients can shop online with over 200 authorized retailers like Costco, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart. But here’s the exciting part: this is the first time SNAP benefits can be used with retailers that don’t have physical stores. Although not all states allow every retailer to accept SNAP benefits, having a brick-and-mortar presence has usually been necessary.

Thrive and DashMart are the first purely online retailers to join SNAP’s lineup. Thrive, launched in 2014, is a membership-based service offering a wide variety of high-quality, healthy groceries for home delivery, usually for $60 a year. Good news for SNAP users: they won’t have to pay this fee. DashMart, operated by DoorDash, provides groceries and household cleaning products exclusively online.

Adding these two retailers is a big step towards giving SNAP recipients more shopping options, especially for those in areas with limited food access. The FNS hopes this will make grocery shopping more convenient and varied, mirroring the experience other Americans enjoy.

Americans prefer online shopping

It’s not just SNAP users getting on the online grocery bandwagon—more Americans are doing their grocery shopping online every day because it’s super convenient, saves time, and can help you stick to your budget by avoiding impulse buys. As online grocery shopping has improved and people have gotten the hang of it, this trend has really taken off. In fact, a 2022 survey by PYMNTS found that about one in six Americans (15.8 percent) ordered groceries online for home delivery every week.

The option for SNAP recipients to shop online is relatively new. The SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot kicked off in 2019 and expanded massively during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Luckily, the program was already in place, making it easier for SNAP beneficiaries to safely get their groceries during the pandemic. Online shopping for SNAP users didn’t slow down after that, leading to some new tweaks and additions.

A November 2023 study in Food Policy analyzed 2020 data and found that letting SNAP recipients buy groceries online really helped stretch their dollars further and reduced the number of families experiencing food insufficiency. Virtual coupons, visible discounts, and bundled offers all make the online shopping experience cheaper. The study showed that the rate of households sometimes or often not having enough food to eat dropped from 24.5 percent to 22.5 percent at the start of the pandemic in 2020. The benefits are clear—online shopping is making a big difference for SNAP families.

More about SNAP

In August 1996, laws enacted by then-President Bill Clintonmean those with federal or state felony drug convictions are permanently banned from receiving SNAP and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits. However, it does contain a provision that allows states to opt out or modify the ban.

According to The Network for Public Health Law, only South Carolina has a total ban in place, with 22 states and Washington, D.C., having completely opted out. The other 27 states have modified the ban so that qualifying people with a drug felony convictions are still eligible to receive SNAP benefits.

The RESTORE Act has been added to the Farm Bill, which gets renewed every five years with new legislation. The upcoming Farm Bill, also called the Rural Prosperity and Food Security Act, is “on track to being signed into law by the end of the year,” according to a press release from the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry published on Wednesday.

This bill was introduced by Tennessee Democratic Representative Steve Cohen in May 2023 and has a bipartisan group of co-sponsors: Florida Republican Representative John Rutherford, Maryland Democratic Representative David Trone, Nebraska Republican Representative Don Bacon, and Georgia Democratic Representative Sanford Bishop.

With many SNAP users already doing most of their shopping online, this move is a game-changer. If Thrive and DashMart work out well, we might see even more online-only retailers joining the SNAP program, giving folks even more places to use their benefits.

Historic change in SNAP benefits raises concerns: how it will affect you starting this month (2024)
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