- The U.S. Department of Agriculture's online purchase test program for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients has expanded to Washington state, according to reports. This is the second state to adopt the program, which launched in New York last April to allow people to use their benefits to buy groceries online.
- SNAP recipients in Washington can now use their benefits to buy groceries online from Walmart and Amazon. An update on Amazon’s blog noted it will now accept benefits from program participants in the greater Seattle area, with the rest of Washington state to follow. Amazon Fresh and Pantry are available to SNAP recipients in Washington without a Prime membership and with free shipping, similar to what it began offering in New York last year.
- Walmart posted a statement saying it's excited to be part of the program and make its pickup and delivery service available to more people. Walmart already accepts SNAP benefits at all of its pickup locations in the U.S.
The two-year pilot program announced by the USDA last April is nearing the end of its first year, and the expansion signifies a positive response from shoppers. Initially, the USDA said the program would expand to several states, including Washington, if it was deemed successful.
The USDA didn’t indicate why it chose Washington as the second state to participate in the pilot program, though both Walmart and Amazon have a strong presence there.
The Seattle Times reported an estimated 165,345 SNAP recipients reside in King County, the state’s most populous county, which includes Seattle, as of last June. About 818,226 people participate in SNAP statewide. The southern parts of the Seattle metro area and King County have high poverty rates, lower-income levels and more food deserts, according to the Times.
The ultimate goal of the program, and of participating retailers, is to expand food access and make it possible for more people to purchase fresh food at an affordable price. There’s a business case as well, with Walmart and Amazon gaining access to nearly a million new online customers throughout the state.
The only other participating retailer is ShopRite, which serves SNAP customers in New York. The USDA says additional retailers will be added as the program progresses.