The Folly of Denying Online Purchases to Food Stamp Recipients

A California friend on food stamps has alerted to me to the fact that in most states, recipients on food stamps cannot use them for online purchases of food. The exceptions are the few states in a pilot program allowing online purchases from designated companies. California is not among those states.

At a time when Americans are encouraged to isolate themselves across the country, it’s folly to require some of the most vulnerable among us to get on buses (if the buses are still running) and take themselves out to stores when we’re all being discouraged from mingling.

I suggest we ask our governors and congressional delegations across the country to press the U.S. Department of Agriculture (which administers the food stamp program) and Congress (which can authorize funds for it) to expand online purchasing to all states, immediately.

As CityLab has pointed out in a recent article, “This would be a big shift for SNAP [the food stamp program]: Not all states even allow participants to apply for benefits online. Given the disparities in access to the internet, such a program alone wouldn’t support every household in a food desert — but it’s a fix that could expand options for many.”

Here is the USDA’s description of the pilot program that permits recipients in some states to buy food online.