Washington, DC, Feb. 1, 2016 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture is seeking governmental or non-profit food purchasing and delivery firms to become SNAP authorized retailers for a one-year, nationwide pilot designed to improve grocery access for homebound elderly and disabled participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
The 2014 Farm Bill expanded the definition of “retail food store” to include governmental or private nonprofit food purchasing and delivery services that purchase and deliver food to the homebound elderly or disabled. Lessons learned during the pilot will help shape guidance issued with final regulations now in development that for the first time will permit governmental and non-profit food grocery purchasing and delivery services to accept SNAP benefits as payment, thus increasing the opportunities for home delivery to those unable to shop for food. Up to 20 food purchasing and delivery services will be selected for the pilot, based on a request for volunteers published today.
“Expanding access to home delivery will help ensure that homebound elderly and disabled SNAP participants have access to healthy foods,” said Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon, noting that nearly one in five SNAP participants is either elderly or disabled.
Despite those statistics, Concannon said that seniors participate in SNAP nationwide participate at a much lower rate. Only 41 percent of eligible elderly individuals participate in SNAP, compared to 85 percent for all people who are eligible.
Home delivery is particularly important for seniors living in rural areas because America's rural population is older than the nation overall and rural seniors experience higher poverty than seniors nationwide, he said.
The 2014 Farm Bill contains several provisions allowing flexibilities for retailers on a pilot or preliminary basis, including the purchase and delivery pilot announced today as well as two other pilots that are still under development by the agency. One of those pilots will allow SNAP participants to buy groceries online, using their program benefits, while the other will allow for redemption of benefits through mobile devices.
Today’s request for volunteers complements a proposed rule published last July as part of USDA’s efforts to support older Americans. For more information about the pilots or to review the proposed rule, please visit the FNS website.
As the nation's first line of defense against hunger, SNAP helps put food on the table for millions of low income families and individuals every month and has never been more critical to the fight against hunger. SNAP is a vital supplement to the monthly food budget of more than 45 million low-income individuals. Nearly half of SNAP participants are children, 10 percent are over 60 and more than 40 percent of recipients live in a household where at least one of the adults is actively in the workforce.