- Kroger will accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) payments at all 2,000 pickup locations by the end of this month, the company announced in a press release. The service is currently operating at the retailer’s Ohio stores.
- Customers using the service select “SNAP/EBT” when ordering, then use their EBT card to pay for eligible items during their pickup. Kroger has waived pickup fees, added more slots and hired thousands of additional workers to support its click-and-collect service.
- Kroger’s announcement comes several months after Walmart enabled SNAP payments across its grocery pickup footprint, and comes at a time of accelerating unemployment in the U.S. fueled by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Kroger’s SNAP expansion comes as shoppers continue to pour into e-commerce and as record numbers of U.S. consumers join the ranks of the unemployed.
Over the past month, more than 20 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits, according to the Department of Labor. States and the Trump administration have eased requirements for participation in SNAP and also provided additional funding to the USDA program, which before the pandemic had around 40 million participants.
Like other shoppers concerned for their safety, many SNAP participants want to utilize online shopping. Most states and retailers only offer payment options for in-store shopping, but there’s significant pressure from health experts, legislators and advocacy groups to open up options for online shopping as consumers try to practice social distancing.
Some retailers like Walmart and, in the coming weeks, Kroger, allow shoppers to pay using their EBT card when they pick up their online order. The USDA is also adding new states to its online SNAP payment program, which launched last year. Ten states now participate in the program, including California, Nebraska, Florida and Arizona, and more are pushing for inclusion.
While being able to pay for groceries at the pickup point is a step in the right direction, health experts argue, it still requires contact between employees and shoppers. They are pushing retailers and states to expand online SNAP payment options.
Kroger, like so many other grocers, has seen a major uptick in online demand. “Every day basically we expand capacity, and every day we sell out of that expanded capacity,” CEO Rodney McMullen said during a financial conference call Thursday.
The company has hired thousands of new workers to fill online orders and added more fulfillment slots. It has also waived order minimums along with its $4.95-per-order fee and is promoting pickup service through store and online marketing materials.
Kroger recently converted a Cincinnati-area supermarket to pickup-only service. Other retailers like Giant Eagle and Amazon are also employing dark-store strategies currently to boost online fulfillment and minimize human contact.
Along with its e-commerce adjustments, Kroger has made numerous updates to its stores to enhance safety, including limiting store traffic and adding barriers and customer spacing markers at checkout. It’s also promoting its Kroger Pay in-app payment service as a contactless option, and will roll out an enhanced version of its Scan, Bag, Go mobile checkout program, which allows shoppers to bypass checkout.