WASHINGTON DC – United States Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Rules Committee Chairman James P. McGovern (MA-02), and Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) are leading the entire Massachusetts Congressional delegation in calling on United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food Nutrition Service (FNS) to do more to bring more a broader selection of retailers into the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) online electronic benefit transfer (EBT) purchasing pilot program.
SNAP plays a critical role in America’s food system, currently providing nutritious meals to 45 million people across the nation, including 785,000 people in the Commonwealth.
The SNAP online purchasing program allows beneficiaries to shop for their groceries online and to have these items delivered to their homes.
This service can be especially important during the current pandemic, as many SNAP beneficiaries are elderly or disabled and are at higher risk of hospitalization if infected with coronavirus.
Food Nutrition Service recently approved Massachusetts’ application to participate in the online purchasing pilot program, but the only retailers these SNAP beneficiaries will have access to upon implementation are Amazon and Walmart.
There are more than 260,000 retailers that participate in SNAP across the country, including 5,000 SNAP retailers in the Commonwealth.
However, FNS has only approved five retailers to participate in the SNAP online delivery program.
“If the online purchasing pilot is to succeed in expanding access for SNAP beneficiaries in Massachusetts, and as the pandemic drives up increased demand for these services, USDA must take aggressive steps to enroll a variety of retailers in the program,” wrote the lawmakers in their letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and FNS Administrator Pam Miller. “We call on USDA to provide clearer guidance for SNAP retailers interested in participating in the SNAP online purchasing program and to consider providing technical assistance and support to further increase the participation of community retailers in this innovative approach to food access.”
Also signing the letter was are Chairman Richard E. Neal (MA-01), and Representatives Lori Trahan (MA-3), Joseph Kennedy III (MA-04), Katherine Clark (MA-05), Seth Moulton (MA-06), Stephen F. Lynch (MA-08), William R. Keating (MA-09).
“We applaud USDA’s efforts to open online purchasing for SNAP recipients, as it will give people much needed flexibility during the pandemic and beyond. However, we urge USDA to expeditiously approve local grocers and bodegas for this pilot, beyond the larger companies of Walmart and Amazon. Not only do SNAP recipients need safe contact-free access to fresh produce, dairy, meat and other protein sources; our local grocers rely on SNAP dollars to support their businesses and the economic stimulus that these federal nutrition dollars bring to local communities. We stand with Senator Markey and the Massachusetts delegation in their request to ease restrictions to allow smaller local retailers to participate in this program,” said The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, The Greater Boston Food Bank, The Worcester County Food Bank, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, Project Bread, and Merrimack County Food Bank in a combined statement.
Original story here.