amazon food stamps

A Sign of the Times: Amazon to Begin Accepting Food Stamps

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Last updated on July 24, 2019 Comments: 16

There are over 44 million Americans currently receiving SNAP benefits, better known as food stamps. This financial assistance was designed to provide nutritious food to qualifying citizens, and about 54% of beneficiaries are children and the elderly.

However, there are a number of struggles that SNAP recipients can face as far as actually spending these funds. The elderly and those without reliable transportation can have trouble getting to the grocery store. Even worse, some areas of the country are considered “food deserts,” and residents there are forced to choose from limited options at small convenience stores or sometimes travel hours just to reach a true grocery store. So, even though those in poverty are having a portion of their food costs subsidized, they can’t actually get their groceries without an inordinate amount of effort.

Enter Amazon?

The Retailers

Last month, it was announced that web giant Amazon — along with six other online grocery retailers — will begin accepting food stamps this coming summer. This is part of a USDA pilot program, aimed at making food more accessible and more affordable for those receiving benefits.

Of the online food providers included in the program, Amazon is by and large the biggest. The retail giant offers dry and fresh goods through its Amazon Pantry, Amazon Prime Now, and Amazon Fresh options.

The other retailers include Safeway, Hy-Vee, Hart’s Local Grocers, ShopRite, and Dash’s Market.  Between these, recipients from seven states will benefit from the program: Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Washington, Iowa, and Oregon.

Potential Problems

Though actual food “stamps” are now obsolete and benefits are distributed onto debit-esque cards, it is the first time that SNAP benefits have ever been accepted online. Of course, this opens the door even wider to the possibility of stamp fraud, or even simply questionable use. In fact, the USDA found that over $1.3 billion was spent on junk food in 2011… these purchases include soda/sweetened drinks (these alone accounted for $600 million, in fact), desserts, candy, sugar, and salty snacks. Of course, this is not the purpose of the government-funded program, and calls into question its efficacy.

This also raises the concern of conflicts of interest, by allowing large corporations to profit from poverty and the state programs that support it. For example, J.P. Morgan provides EBT (electronic benefits transaction) services for 24 different states and their food stamp programs. Since 2004, 18 of these states have contracted the bank’s services, for a total bill of over $560 million. This provides quite an incentive for these banks and other companies to participate in such government programs.

Rolling Out Soon

The trial program will begin in July and initially run for a two-year period. SNAP recipients in the seven states mentioned above (Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Washington, Iowa, and Oregon) can take advantage of online ordering, through Amazon or the other providers. There are plans to expand the program further down the line, potentially adding retailers like Walmart to the list.

It will be interesting to see how well the program runs, and its ability to bring fresh, healthy foods to those who cannot easily access them otherwise. I am also curious to see whether or not the benefits are abused more than they are at-present. However, I am optimistic that the use of an online purchasing system will allow for increased monitoring and will prevent some of the current fraud issues. I hope to see those in food deserts, or without transportation , improve their ability to source nutritional options.

What do you think about being able to use food stamps online?

Article comments


whats it matter what people buy what do you buy right

Sherrell says:

This is an amazing idea thank god.

LINDA M Kashan says:

I cannot believe there isn’t a store in Florida that accepts ebt,Englewood area

Margie says:

Is this good for all Oregonians or just some of us? Last time we tried to order on Amazon they would not accept our zip code.

Isar says:

This is an awesome idea. My mother is 97 years old, she lives in a tiny village in Queens, NY and her Aides never have vehicles. Many timesI have shopped for her from my location 3000 miles away, the shipping is ridiculous. Now, I can shop for her using using my Prime account. I worked for Tribal Government a few years ago , we were located 25 miles from the nearest supermarket on a good day. This will help so many of the seniors that live on Tribal Lands.
My last comment is referred to the “bad foods” that some people on food stamps purchase. Many stores like Family Dollar, Dollar General and the 99 Cents sell mostly low quality, high sodium foods. These are the stores that are found in low-income and rural neighborhoods. Sometimes even Walmart will be located hundreds of miles away, for those with registered or permitted vehicles. Lastly, not all people with food stamps have a place to cook, my dearest friend lives in a SRO, she has a microwave oven and a tiny refrigerator . While my mother has an 3 story home that she can’t move about in to cook for herself, because she is weak and disabled. I didn’t say any of these things to have people feel sorry for us. I just want people to have some compassion and understanding . By the way, I have more mobility issues than my mom. You can feel sorry for me by not parking in the damn “handicapped” slots, if you are not physically handicapped .

Tomorrow is not Promised says:

For someone that is a food stamp recipient.. that worked 2 jobs and went to school at night..worked on labor jobs till eventually I found myself able to have a decent then I was physically impaired from all the hard work..arthritis had set in my back and knees..and I was diagnosed with CKD…so yes..i think online Foodstamp purchases would be Great..for the ones that everyone has forgotten about..the ones in need..the poor..
and by the way I never smoked, dranked nor did drugs..and I ate Healthy..i was raised by a hard working educated family that gave me work ethnics, and made me believe that hard work will pay off..if by any chance any of you know what that feels like to give your all to your Country, community, so that you can be part of the solution and not the problem..then when you are in need you are deemed a loser and Government freeloader..I’m sorry to tell you all ..we are in the same place we’ve always been..Not all of us want to sit at home and watch soap operas all day, not all of us, come from single family homes, not all of us stuff our children with junk food..our biggest problem is.. not what we take…But we what give..and that sometimes comes in the form of understanding and empathy..because we never know what tomorrow brings…and yes one problem will always create another..until we realize where the real problem lies..

Mimi says:

This is great! Having no car for a couple of months I would not have to ask for a ride to the store and afford 5.99 a month to have it shipped BUTT I’m in Ga and don’t get this pivelege… When will it be in ga or will it at all?

Sandra says:

Writing as one that is unable to go to physical store anymore this is or will be wonderful if and when it becomes available in hummelstown/harrisburg pennsylvania. And when I am able to get a straight honest answer from amazon help/customer service department.

Dana says:

I would be more concerned about hacking my private data…. I friend just told me amazon asked if she wanted to use her entire card — she never gave it to them so how did they know she had one? Who was hacked here??

Tanya says:

It’s such a wonderful idea! However, even with the ability to order fresh foods this way, it’s still a struggle for these families to afford complete healthy meals. “Junk foods” are so much more affordable. Also, some people may not be able to prepare healthy meals, due to physical or mental disability, or other reasons. There’s also the cases where neglectful parents won’t cook for their children and if not for the “junk food”, that the children can find on their own, they would not eat. Sadly, this really doesn’t happen. So, it’s not so easy to say everything should be fresh. I agree that these families should get all the fresh and healthy foods as possible, but sometimes it’s not that simple. Overall, I really think this is going to help so many people and I’m so glad that Amazon is thinking of all their customers, big and small.

Tanya Adams says:

*Edited version* I found a few errors, so I tried to edited them, although it still may not be great. Hehe. I wish everyone who has access to this the best of luck.

It’s such a wonderful idea! However, even with the ability to order fresh foods this way, *it can still be a struggle for some people to afford a complete healthy meal, for every meal. **”Junk foods” can be much more affordable these days.* Also, some people may not be able to prepare healthy meals, due to physical or mental disability, or other reasons. There’s also the cases where neglectful parents won’t cook for their children and if not for the “junk food”, that the children can find on their own, they would not eat. Sadly, this really *does* happen. So, it’s not so easy to say everything should be fresh. I agree that *everyone* should get all the fresh and healthy foods as possible, but sometimes it’s not that simple. Overall, I really *do* think this is going to help many people and I’m glad Amazon is thinking of all their customers, big and small.

Yoli. says:

I think it’s a great idea, especially for those who are disabled and are unable to carry heavy things.

Ken Ashe says:

I think it’s fine for Amazon to accept food stamps. I use Amazon Fresh, and it’s just like a regular grocery store. Fresh may even have better and healthier food options than some local grocery stores in poorer neighbors

Boudicca says:

No, this does not solve anything. It creates just as many problems as the original problem of the poor and elderly finding a market to shop. Now it includes how are they going to shop for food if they don’t have internet access? Now there will be more applying for free government internet access. Yes, you can visit the library, but the response will be “there is no library available or its too far out of my way, and what about security?” The government is still not blocking the purchase of soda pop, chips, candy, and other junk food either. Its a win win for freeloaders and the government who will continue to tax to pay for all these freebies thereby keeping one group in office and the working American stuck on the 9-to-5 slavery treadmill.

Astute says:

Yeah, because you seem to know what everyone using EBT cards are purchasing, right? Soda pop, chips and candy…seems like a good, all American dinner to me! Hope you can expand that intellectual, self rightous brain of yours to grasp the notion that most of the families utilizing these benefits are also people who are worn down cogs in the big wheel of this country’s work force. Many are the ones running the shows you frequent. The clerk’s, the food service workers…the underpaid butt wipers, etc… you catch my drift. Do us all a favor and can your hot air. You may need to eat it for dinner at some point. God forbid you are ever in a situation where you are in need of help!

Jayleigh says:

Amazon won’t let me use my card to purchase food. I just learned about this program (never received any communication that this is available). I can utilize it for other Amazon benefits. I learned from a friend last week that I can get reduced cost internet. Two months after I cancelled my $70/month internet. I worked three jobs at a time all my life just to get by. I had a very abusive childhood, but like another wrote, I never drank, did drugs, smoked, partied, etc. I learned my work ethic because I didn’t want to be like my parents. Then I became disabled. What I did as a child to get through the abuse was turn to the junk food that was prevalent in our home. So, while there is an opiod epidemic along with other things, my “drug” of choice for comfort has been the junk food I grew up with. I did well as I put myself through college and began to work. Then I got injured. When I could no longer do normal things, including work, and became isolated, my MH issues due to the abuse worsened. I returned to my drug of choice. Food. We help a lot of people through my church. Most were abused as children. Some turn to drugs, alcohol, cigarettes and more. Others choose food. Junk foods are comfort foods. Sugar and other ingredients are known to be addictive. For me it was safer and preferable to the alternatives and I beat myself up every day because I wanted to be free of this addiction. I sought help through therapy. Most therapists aren’t truly equipped to help those who were abused as children. Yet we always have to disclose this information as they take our history. I know a lot of people who couldn’t deal with the pain of disclosure and quit soon after. They didn’t know that the average therapist isn’t even equipped to go there after taking the history. I’ve been in therapy on and off for 36 of my 56 years. I’ve had therapists ignore my abuse after taking my history. There are those (early on) who focused solely on my abuse and screwed me up even worse because they weren’t equipped to deal with childhood abuse. I could find nobody to help with my extreme over eating. Dieticians, etc are equipped to deal with healthy eating but not how to address the eating disorders since they aren’t therapists. I went to a weight management clinic and all they offered me was new meds to curb eating which was insurance doesn’t cover. Or bariatric surgery, which I never opted for because since I received no help for the underlying causes, I knew the surgery would fail because I’d continue to overeat. A year and a half ago I just got fed up with my eating. I learned on my own, even though I’d been seeing a nutritionist for years, how to eat healthy. Which foods provide what nutrients. Which foods to avoid due to cholesterol or causing inflammation, etc. How to reduce my portions. I finally learned I ate as I had all my life DUE to the abuse. That I was stress eating. That I couldn’t do all of this without exercise. Which exercises do I do with my physical disabilities?Nobody had ever addressed these things. I didn’t change overnight. AND it takes perseverance, which most adult victims of abuse don’t have. It took a while for me to transition from helplessness to perseverance and still struggle with this at times. My nutritionist noticed my weight loss and saw the changes in my lab reports. She asked what I was doing differently. She encouraged me. She was happy for me. Yet for the most part I was still on this journey alone. I finally found a trauma therapist two years ago who is also educated in eating disorders. I lost 75lbs. Health issues other than my disabilities improved drastically. This is the kind of professional who is truly equipped to help people who are serious about getting well, yet there are so few of them. Even less who accept Medicare. Why do people on food stamps eat so much junk food? I just gave you MANY reasons. Another thing. Our church provides meals to the underserved every week. We purchase healthy food from the food bank to give away. We used to get donations from grocery stores that included milk, eggs, meat, and sometimes produce. We still receive SOME those types of donations. But through convenience stores and certain eateries as well as grocery stores we receive way more junk food which we would rather not give out. Cakes, donuts, cookies, and other baked goods as well as pre-packaged cupcakes, etc from name brand companies. We give it out anyway alongside the healthy food. If we were picky in the donations we received, we wouldn’t have much to give out anymore. Lastly, even those in need who are mentally well enough to eat healthy need a bit of junk now and then just as healthy families do. As treats. Ice cream and boxed cake, etc. to celebrate a birthday, especially a child’s. If I haven’t been clear enough regarding many (but not all) of the reasons people on food stamps eat so much junk food and you still have little to no understanding or compassion, the stigma is also part of the problem, just so you know. The stigma of having a mental health diagnosis, which often comes from the toxic shame and worthless of having been abused in the first place. Are there people who take advantage? Of course there are. If you think about it, there are many in all walks of life with no history of traumatic abuse who take advantage of people, have addictions commit crimes out, etc. Look at some the rich folks, including the founder and CEO of Amazon itself. If you read all of this and now have more understanding or compassion, bless you! And please do what you can to help. Even if that is to change your mind about your view of those with mental health issues and/or that this is our addiction as opposed to other options such as cigarettes, drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, crime, etc. Thank you.