The Missouri Department of Social Services has announced that Food Stamp/Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) households will be able to use an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) to purchase eligible foods online.
The United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service has approved Amazon and Walmart for online purchases with the EBT card, and the Missouri DSS will give updates if other retailers are approved.
“This new option allowing SNAP households to purchase eligible foods online will relieve some of the stress Missourians face related to COVID-19 and improve access to good nutrition,” said DSS acting director Jennifer Tidball. “The turnaround time for making SNAP online purchasing a reality has been exceptional, and I thank all involved parties who worked quickly and very diligently to help who continue to struggle with the impact of COVID-19.”
Those ordering food online can have their groceries delivered, but cannot use SNAP benefits to pay for delivery. Orders from Amazon will be shipped to the card holder's home, while orders from Walmart have the option of curbside pickups.
Northeast Community Action Corporation (NECAC) deputy director for community services Janice Robinson said she thinks this is a great idea, but is not sure how many people in this area will use this service.
“Around here, there's a lot of community members that will do the shopping for them,” Robinson said. “They can call in and get their order, and someone can pick it up at some of these local stores around here, so a lot of folks are doing that.”
Robinson said she thinks that the main demographic of people who would use the online service would either be immune compromised or elderly.
“I think a lot of people will reach out and try that, especially those that are homebound,” Robinson said. “I know a lot of seniors that don't want to get out with the pandemic the way it is, and they are staying pretty tight at home.”
There has been an increase of Missourians using the SNAP benefits since the pandemic started, with the Missouri DSS reporting an increase from 660,628 individuals in March to 752,315 individuals in April participating in the program.
The Missouri Department of Labor reported that 536,094 individuals have filed for unemployment since the week of March 21, which has also increased the demand for assistance.
“We are starting to see more of that clientele coming into our offices that have never had to seek any kind of assistance or help before,” Robinson said. “So this is really starting to get intense.”
With so many people losing their jobs, local food pantries have been dealing with an increase in demand.
“I know that food pantries have been very busy,” Robinson said. “We've been sending a lot of folks up there … and they have been making their (first) trip to the food pantry. They had never been there before and never had to ask for any kind of help before.”
Robinson said she has seen a number of cases where both parents had been laid off or lost their job due to the pandemic.
“In this day in age, everyone lives paycheck-to-paycheck, so it's going to be very difficult for families to survive with paying their bills, rent, utilities, food and your other basic necessities,” Robinson said. “We have had a lot of requests for diapers, hygiene items, medication and stuff of that nature. We are seeing that need pop up more than normal.”
Missourians in need of information for food stamps can visit dss.mo.gov and use the DSS Virtual Assistant to get answers to basic questions. They can also call 855-373-4636 for information Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., and on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.