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Can You Purchase Food Online Using Your EBT Card?

Can You Purchase Food Online Using Your EBT Card?

EBT Blog
By: John Daniels

Jul 08, 2016

With today's technology online grocery stores can now bring groceries right to your front door. But currently anyone receiving food stamps cannot use this new technology, but this might change. An online grocery chain is leading a coalition of organizations with a petition to allow SNAP recipients to use their EBT card online to purchase food. Find out what you can buy, approved food items to purchase with food stamps.

This online grocery store is called Thrive Market. They deliver healthy foods that are non-perishable at discounted prices for paid members. For every member who signs up, Thrive Market gives a free membership to a low income family. They have raised more then $110 million dollars in funding, and recently announced they will appear in front of Congress this month to make their case for people to be able to use food stamps online.

“The first step is access,” Thrive Market co-founder and co-CEO Gunnar Lovelace told MUNCHIES by email. “Thousands of [our customers in our no-fee Giving Program] rely on food assistance but cannot use them online to buy healthy food.”

Access is just but one issue, they also will be looking at a very large customer base. Over 46 million families who are on the SNAP program, it is very difficult to find healthy foods at their local grocery store, often times stuck buying less healthier foods at convenience stores that are full of pre-packaged foods and microwavable meats. Many people using food stamps cant buy fresh fruits, grains, vegetables or meat.

With online stores, people could use their EBT cards to easily access healthier food chooses at affordable prices, Thrive says. It also can help with the some times embarrassment feeling when at the check out counter being told the food they are buying is not eligible to purchase with their food stamps. With an online system, Thrive says it can easily and quickly identify what foods are eligible through the SNAP guidelines.

However the argument of using food stamps online is to encourage people to buy healthy food items, but there is no guarantee this will be the outcome. Online stores like the Wild West provide steep discounts on items like bulk candy and soda, which are eligible to purchase with your SNAP benefits.

There is currently a pilot program in New York City through FreshDirect that allows people to use their food stamps to order food online and pay for it using their EBT card. They would select the food items and their order would be delivered to their location, from there they would swipe their EBT card. The deliver is free, and their purchase is tax free. FreshDirect has said they received positive feedback so far on the program. But there are some challenges to a system like this, mainly it requires someone to be at the location in order to receive the order and swipe their EBT card.

At the moment though, if you receive food stamps, you are limited to what you can purchase locally.

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