The ¹Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a federal nutrition assistance program that provides eligible low-income individuals and their families benefits ranging from ² $175- $1137, depending on the household size. The beneficiaries can access the SNAP benefits through the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card. This card allows the beneficiaries to buy eligible food in authorized food stores. But in addition to in-person grocery shopping, can they use EBT to pay for meal delivery services? Are there online food delivery services and food delivery apps that accept EBT? What are the different retail companies that accept EBT as payment? This article will answer all these questions and more.
What Can SNAP Benefits Buy?
People who have SNAP benefits can ³ purchase food such as:
- Healthy foods like fresh produce, fruits, and vegetables
- Meat, fish, and poultry
- Dairy, bread, cereal
- Snack foods and non-alcoholic beverages
- Seed and plants which can produce food
Households cannot use their SNAP benefits for hot foods, which mostly means restaurant-prepared meals. Hot foods mean SNAP beneficiaries can't use EBT to pay for GrubHub, UberEats, DoorDash, or any service that offers restaurant food deliveries.
EBT and Meal Delivery Services
A meal delivery service can deliver food in two ways: ready-to-eat meals and meal kits.
For ready-to-eat meals, the customers only need to heat them up, and no preparation is required. Currently, no ready-to-eat meal delivery service (like FreshLean, Freshly, Daily Harvest, etc.) accepts EBT as payment.
For meal kits, the service sends its customers a box with pre-portioned and partially prepared food ingredients for a recipe. All the customer needs to do is combine the ingredients and cook them. Some meal kits require the ingredients to be processed by chopping and slicing before cooking.
Top Box, for now, is ⁴ the only meal kit delivery service that accepts EBT as a payment option. Beneficiaries can choose the SNAP option when paying for their meal delivery kits through Top Box. An in-person will process the payment when they deliver the order.
Currently, Top Box serves the areas of Chicago, Rockford, new Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Atlanta.The meal kits from Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, and Home Fresh are also technically eligible for EBT payments under the ⁵ federal pilot programs launched by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 2019 because they send their subscribers partially prepared food. ⁶ However, before these companies can accept EBT as payment, they need to be approved by the USDA. With all the developments, it might not be long before SNAP beneficiaries can order online from other meal kit delivery companies using their EBT cards.
EBT and Grocery Delivery Services
With the federal pilot program taking root, many grocery stores now accept EBT cards as payment. This even extends to online shopping so that beneficiaries can order food online. Instead of a meal kit delivery service with preportioned meals, groceries offer fresh ingredients to make equally delicious meals and pre-prepared frozen meals. With these, buying food from groceries is an excellent alternative to meal kits.
Below are some stores where SNAP beneficiaries can use their EBT for online grocery shopping to make fresh and nutritious meals.Fresh Direct⁷ Fresh direct accepts EBT for eligible food products, including ready-to-cook frozen nutritious meals. Beneficiaries need to buy at least $30 worth and choose the EBT option at check out. The delivery service will then ask them to key in their EBT PIN.
- Amazon Fresh is the grocery delivery arm of Amazon and one of the delivery services that accept EBT as payment. SNAP recipients with an Amazon account can add their EBT card, choose SNAP-eligible products online, and key in their EBT pin at checkout. Amazon accepts EBT cards for ordering food online in all states except Montana, Louisiana, Alaska, and Hawaii.
- ALDI stores from 37 states and the Columbia District allow SNAP recipients to use their EBT card as an online payment option when purchasing groceries online and delivering them to their homes. In addition to going to their site, people can also use the Instacart app.
- Walmart ⁸also accepts EBT payments for those ordering groceries online in all states except Alaska and Montana. EBT cardholders in these states can use their EBT cards at pickup. Walmart said that people shop online at the site as usual for EBT eligible food, and if the local Walmart accepts EBT, that option will be available at checkout.
- Kroger is another grocery store accepting EBT cards as payment online. The store offers free curbside pickup for $35 or more grocery purchases. SNAP recipients can use their debit cards when purchasing food online with Krogers. They can then choose a time when they can pick up their items.
The above are just a few retailers participating in the SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot and accepting EBT cards for payment. For a complete list of stores, people can go to the USDA website at www.fns.usda.org. They can click on their state to see the complete list of retailers that accept EBT cards for food delivery.
The Future of EBT Meal and Grocery Delivery
With more and more retailers accepting EBT cards as payment for in-store purchases and online purchases, the access to a wide variety of fresh and nutritious foods for SNAP beneficiaries is getting better and better.
1 Eligible Food Items, April 4, 2021, https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/eligible-food-items, ( Accessed April 21, 2022)
2 A Quick Guide to Snap Eligibility and Benefits, January 6,2022 Center on Budget and Policy Priorities https://www.cbpp.org/research/food-assistance/a-quick-guide-to-snap-eligibility-and-benefits,(Accessed April 22, 2022)
3 Eligible Food Items, April 4, 2022, https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/eligible-food-items, ( Accessed April 21, 2022)
5 USDA Launches Snap Online Purchasing Pilot, U.S. Department of Agriculture, April 18, 2019, https://www.usda.gov/media/press-releases/2019/04/18/usda-launches-snap-online-purchasing-pilot, ( Accessed April 21, 2022)
6 Greg Heilman, Does Hello Fresh accept food stamps and SNAP EBT cards?, February 7, 2022, ASTV, https://en.as.com/en/2022/02/07/latest_news/1644253324_246420.html. (Accessed April 23, 2022)
7 Details about FreshDirect EBT Pilot Program, Fresh Direct https://www.freshdirect.com/category.jsp?catId=about_ebt ( Accessed April 21, 2022)8 Josephine Nesbit, Walmart Accepts EBT SNAP Food stamps as Payment, What are the Restrictions?, March 16, 2022, Yahoo Finance, https://finance.yahoo.com/news/walmart-accepts-ebt-snap-food-190114888.html?fr=sycsrp_catchall ( Accessed April 21, 2022)