Instacart, the online grocery delivery and pick-up service, announced on Thursday the start of a new pilot program that will allow people to pay for groceries using food stamps. The program is in partnership with the grocery store chain ALDI. Both companies plan to launch the service in phases starting with over 60 ALDI stores in Georgia before expanding to over 570 ALDI stores in Illinois, California, Florida, and Pennsylvania "in the coming months."
To access the program, users need to make an Instacart profile. In their profile, they can add their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) card information as a form of payment. Then, customers will need to add a second form of payment for taxes and fees since SNAP cards can only be used for food items.
This could potentially be a problem for people without credit or debit cards. Instacart only takes cards, so users relying on just SNAP and cash will likely be left out of the program.
After adding two forms of payment, customers can then start shopping for SNAP-eligible items from participating ALDI stores. They can choose how much of their SNAP benefits go toward their order, and determine when they'd like to receive their groceries.
There are clearly some glaring limitations, but a service like this is still important for SNAP recipients who are vulnerable to the virus. While Covid-19 drove people to rely on online deliveries to lower their risk of infection, folks on food stamps didn't get the same option. More often than not, they had to go to the store in-person to pay with a SNAP card.
Over six million people enrolled to receive food stamps within the first three months of the pandemic. That's a lot of people who could be risking their health, and their family's health, to go out for groceries. This is where Instacart hopes to step in.
"As the nation continues to grapple with the effects of COVID-19, we recognize Instacart has an opportunity to increase access to fresh, nutritious food and pantry staples by unlocking EBT SNAP payments for online grocery delivery and pickup services in communities across the country," President of Instacart Nilam Ganenthiran said in a press release.
"We're proud to partner with ALDI on this important initiative and are committed to being a long-term solution for EBT SNAP households and connecting everyone, no matter who they are or where they live, to the groceries and essential goods they need."
Brent Laubaugh, Co-President of ALDI U.S., expressed similar hopes to quickly expand the program in the same release.
"Enabling customers to use their SNAP/EBT benefits for their grocery delivery and curbside pickup orders is an important extension of our in-store payment policy," Laubaugh said. "While the option is only available in select markets at the moment, we're eager to roll out this update broadly as quickly as possible."