Food stamps & the 21st century

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A pilot program through Department of Agriculture will allow people who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits—formerly known as food stamps—to use those benefits to buy groceries online beginning in summer 2017. However, the program isn’t all peaches and cream.

Many who could benefit most from the new program lack access to high-speed internet, which is necessary to use the benefit.

“There is a significant digital divide between rural and urban areas,” says Alison Cohen, who is the senior director of programming for WhyHunger.org. “Further, there is a class and generational divide among those who use the internet. People over the age of 65 are less likely to be connected digitally, as are those who do not have a college education.

“Smartphones make up for some of the digital divide along class lines but not for seniors.”

Gunnar Lovelace, who is the founder and CEO of Thrive Market, which is an online grocery store that has provided free memberships to low-income families, remains optimistic that the pilot program is a well-intentioned start of efforts to “bring [SNAP] into the 21st century as quickly as possible.”

Lovelace has been vocal in his support of the pilot program.

The pilot program will take place in three states and use up to five retailers.