WASHINGTON, D.C. — Soon Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants across five states will have a new way to pay for groceries.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is partnering with the states of Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Missouri and Oklahoma to test mobile payment methods within SNAP. In the next few years, SNAP participants will have the option to use mobile payments methods like tapping or scanning their personal mobile device as an alternative to their physical SNAP card.
SNAP serves millions of low-income families and children each month. Mobile payments, which are widely considered a safe, secure and convenient way to shop for groceries, are one way FNS can help make it easier for busy families to put healthy food on the table, the agency said.
Additionally, the technology also has the potential to help protect families from having their SNAP benefits stolen because of card skimming and other fraud.
"Today's announcement represents another step forward for the future of SNAP and the many ways our programs are embracing modern and innovative ideas to improve nutrition security," said Stacy Dean, USDA deputy undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services. "Digital wallets are changing the way we pay for everything, including groceries. We want to ensure SNAP leverages the latest technology to improve access to benefits, reduce fraud, and provide a better overall experience for the families we serve."
FNS will work with state agencies as well as EBT processors, mobile wallet providers, retailers and more to support the rollout of mobile payments in the selected pilot states.
Neither retailers nor SNAP households are required to participate in the pilots. Stores can decide whether to adopt the new technology and make contactless payments available to their SNAP customers, and shoppers can continue to use their EBT card if that's how they prefer to pay.
"Illinois is pleased to participate in the SNAP Mobile Payment Pilot and help advance access to healthy food throughout the communities we serve," said Tim Verry, director of family and community services, Illinois Department of Human Services. "In addition to offering a more modern way for SNAP participants to pay in the checkout line, mobile payment technology builds on Illinois’ efforts in fraud prevention by using more secure payment technology."
The mobile payment pilots are one of many actions FNS is taking to modernize SNAP and make it easier for families to buy the foods they need for good health. Other SNAP modernization efforts include expanding SNAP online shopping, partnering with the National Grocers Association Foundation to help small and/or rural retailers get started with SNAP online shopping, and exploring EBT card technology and safeguards.
"Oklahoma is excited to be a pilot state in the effort to create a quicker, more efficient and secure way of providing SNAP benefits to our state's most vulnerable citizens," said Tom Pennington, Oklahoma Human Services financial administrator. "This effort not only reduces the risk of fraud by protecting customer's accounts through multilevel authentication, it also reduces the stigma associated with SNAP benefits and promotes dignity for our customers while they are trying to put food on the table for their families. We are proud to dedicate the resources and staff required for this pilot to continually modernize our programs and find ways to better serve our customers."
FNS is also investing in major modernization and innovation efforts across all its programs that support nutrition security for children and families, including the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
For example, FNS recently announced proposed changes that, if finalized, would allow online ordering in WIC. These modernizations are designed to help connect more eligible mothers and young children with the proven benefits of WIC and improve the service they receive throughout their entire experience with the program, which is an integral part of the agency's urgent and ongoing work to create a healthier future for America's children through equitable access to nutrition, FNS stated.
FNS's efforts to modernize federal nutrition programs support the Biden-Harris Administration's commitment to designing and delivering services with a focus on the actual experience of the people it serves. The administration believes government must deliver services more equitably and effectively, especially for those who have been historically underserved.
USDA's Food and Nutrition Service works to end hunger and improve food and nutrition security through a suite of more than 15 nutrition assistance programs, such as the school breakfast and lunch programs, WIC and SNAP. Together, these programs serve one in four Americans over the course of a year, promoting consistent and equitable access to healthy, safe and affordable food essential to optimal health and wellbeing. FNS also provides science-based nutrition recommendations through the co-development of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.