Online grocery delivery service Instacart announced today an expansion of its EBT Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) payment integration to three new retailers: Publix, The Save Mart Companies and Price Chopper/Market 32. This boosts Instacart’s EBT SNAP availability by more than 1,500 stores across 15 states. Once complete, Instacart will offer EBT SNAP payment options in more than 4,000 stores across 38 states and Washington D.C.
From today’s press release announcing the news:
EBT SNAP is now available at all Publix locations in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. The Save Mart Companies – including Save Mart, Lucky California, Lucky and FoodMaxx banners – is now available across California and Nevada, making them the first Northern California retailer to offer EBT SNAP online. Price Chopper/Market 32 is now available across its New York stores, and will soon expand to its Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Vermont locations in the coming weeks.
Instacart began accepting EBT SNAP payments in pilot program with grocery retailer ALDI back in October 2020. That program expanded to more than 2,000 ALDI locations nationwide. Earlier this year, Instacart announced EBT SNAP payments program Food Lion stores.
The Center on Budget Policy and Priorities writes that 38 million people in the US, or 12 percent of the country’s population receive SNAP benefits. Until a couple of years ago, those on the SNAP program were unable to use their benefits to buy groceries online. In April of 2019, the USDA announced a pilot program allowing SNAP participants to purchase groceries digitally.
Instacart’s expansion also comes on the heels of USDA announcing this week that it is expanding the Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) program to provide food to kids over the summer who would otherwise get free meals at school. According to NPR, the P-EBT program takes the value of the meals kids would normally receive at school ($6.82 per weekday) and puts that on a debit or existing SNAP card to be used at grocery stores.
Increasing access to online grocery e-commerce to those on SNAP is an important step to begin bringing about more equity to our food system. Being able to buy groceries online for pickup and delivery became even more critical during the pandemic, when trip to the grocery store could literally get you sick.
It should be noted that EBT SNAP money can only be used to buy food, it cannot be put towards Instacart’s delivery fees or tips. Those add-ons can get expensive and may price out those who could use the convenience of Instacart the most. As I’ve written before, it would be nice if Instacart, which has raised $2.7 billion, put more resources towards solving issues around fees and tips for those on SNAP. The company has taken what amounts to a baby step on that front as Instacart says it will waive delivery or pickup fees through June 16, 2021 on up to the first three EBT SNAP orders for each customer.