The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program commanded a significant profile in the grocery industry in 2023, as retailers grappled with reduced payouts through the federal nutrition-assistance program and the USDA took steps to make it easier for people to access their benefits digitally.
The year started out with rough news for many SNAP participants as emergency benefits implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic ended, shaving $90 per month off the average SNAP allotment. The reduction in spending power stemming from the change has taken a bite out of the industry, hurting grocers financially even as they confront inflation and other headwinds.
Grocers made progress during the year in allowing people to use SNAP benefits as a payment method for online grocery orders. In June, the USDA announced that the agency’s SNAP online purchasing program had reached every state with the addition of Alaska, and Kroger said in October that it had started accepting SNAP benefits online across its entire network of stores.
Giant Food and Harvest Market each touted their efforts to incentivize shoppers to use SNAP benefits to purchase healthy foods like produce. Meijer, meanwhile, began letting shoppers who use the Flashfood service, which connects shoppers with perishable products nearing their sell-by date, pay for their purchases using SNAP.
Lawmakers are considering legislation that would update federal law to allow SNAP beneficiaries to use their benefits to buy hot and prepared foods. The change would “modernize the program to meet the present needs of families,” Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a Virginia Democrat who helped introduce the Hot Foods Act, said in a statement earlier this month.
Here’s a roundup of some key SNAP-related news of 2023.