Jason Ackerman, the chief executive officer and co-founder of online grocer FreshDirect, wants Congress to allow food stamps to be spent online. He has written Congress to ask it to update the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) system so that people can use their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits online.
Moving to create a new base of customers and ingratiate itself with its future Bronx neighbors, FreshDirect is asking Congress to pass a bill allowing food-stamp recipients to purchase groceries online. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives is unmoved, but a compromise with the Senate could allow the change.
Ackerman argued in an editorial in May on Politico.com that allowing online shopping would help benefits recipients live better lives.
If Congress passes this important farm bill provision, we are ready to participate in the online EBT pilot program. Updating the food stamp system to allow recipients to purchase groceries online is not just a convenience in this difficult economy — it is a necessity.
More and more, statistics show, food stamp recipients are not necessarily unemployed. Rather, they are low-income workers — balancing part-time jobs and parenting. They may not have the time or the means to trek to a grocery store in another neighborhood to buy fresh, healthy food.
The future of this proposal will depend on politics, and the outcomes of the elections in the fall. While allowing SNAP benefits to be spent online could help solve problems like food deserts where there are no grocery stores, that only works if the online stores are willing to deliver in all areas.
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