The two-year pilot program will test online ordering and payment.

WASHINGTON – The US Dept. of Agriculture has authorized online ordering in a few locations for participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The initiative is part of a two-year pilot program scheduled to begin this summer.

Retailer volunteers for the pilot program represent a cross-section of store types, including national online retailers as well as large grocery chains and smaller, regional networks. Firms selected include:

• 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)

Albertsons Companies, which operates Safeway, Vons, Tom Thumb and numerous other grocery retail stores, also provides online shopping and home delivery in 12 states and the District of Columbia.

“The SNAP Online Purchasing pilot is at the intersection of innovation and community improvement, and Albertsons Companies is honored to have been selected to participate,” Shane Sampson, chief marketing and merchandising officer for Albertsons Companies, said in a statement. “Enabling SNAP participants to shop online and have their groceries delivered makes fresh foods more accessible to everyone, including those who may not be able to make a weekly trip to the store. We’re proud to be part of combating food insecurity in these communities.”

The pilot will test online ordering and payment, according to USDA. Pilots will take place in seven states in both rural and urban areas.

“Online payment presents technical and security challenges that will need to be examined and fully addressed before it is offered nationwide,” USDA said in a statement. “As with the core program, SNAP participants will only be able to use their benefits to purchase eligible items online — not to pay for service or delivery charges. USDA is committed to maintaining the security of SNAP benefits for both the protection of SNAP participant accounts and to prevent and detect trafficking, so SNAP online purchases must have a higher level of security than most other online purchases.”

USDA added that the agency expects to add more retailers as the pilot program proceeds, with the goal of a national rollout of online ordering and payment for SNAP participants.