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USDA Announces Seven Retailers to Participate in Pilot Program, Accept Food Stamps Online

BrianAJackson/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a pilot program that would allow participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to purchase groceries online.

Seven retailers will begin accepting food stamps online as part of an effort to make healthy food more available to Americans dependent on the SNAP program. "Online purchasing is a potential lifeline for SNAP participants living in urban neighborhoods and rural communities where access to healthy food choices can be limited," said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.

"We're looking forward to being able to bring the benefits of the online market to low-income Americans participating in SNAP," he continued."

The retailers participating in the trial program will cover seven states -- New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Maryland, Iowa and Washington. The USDA notes that they also represent a variety of store types, including national retailers like Amazon and smaller, regional chains like Dash's Markey and Hart's Local Grocers in upstate New York.

The retailers participating in the program are:

Amazon - Maryland, New Jersey, New York
FreshDirect - New York
Safeway - Maryland, Oregon, Washington,
ShopRite - Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania
Hy-Vee, Inc. - Iowa
Hart's Local Grocers - New York (based in Rochester)
Dash's Market - New York (based in Buffalo)

The program is intended to test both ordering and payment online, as well as testing a variety of rural and urban areas. "As with the core program, SNAP participants will only be able to use their benefits to purchase eligible items online," the USDA notes, "not to pay for service or delivery charges."

The USDA also says that it expects to be able to add additional retailers and eventually turn the program national as the pilot proceeds.

More than 43 million low-income individual rely on SNAP as a supplement to their monthly food budget according to the agency.

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