Food stamp recipients can get their groceries delivered starting May 18. Walmart and Amazon are the first retailers to join the pilot program for online ordering and delivery in Texas, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission said in a news release.
Other changes have been made to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Renewal requirements are being temporarily waived, and clients are receiving the maximum eligible allotment.
“By allowing SNAP recipients to purchase groceries online throughout the COVID-19 response, we are removing barriers to healthy and nutritious food for many families in Texas,” Gov. Greg Abbott said.
Health and Human Services Commission Access and Eligibility Deputy Executive Commissioner Wayne Salter explained reasons for the pilot program.
“Because families, including SNAP recipients, have had to adjust to social distancing and staying home when possible, some homes have encountered challenges when finding certain grocery items,” he said.
Food banks are working to feed an increased number of hungry Texans. Here is what food bank leaders think of the changes to SNAP.
“Feeding Texas applauds HHSC for applying for the Online Purchasing Pilot, as this will allow our state’s SNAP recipients to keep their families safe and respect social distancing guidelines during the COVID-19 public health and economic crisis,” said Celia Cole, CEO of Feeding Texas.
Many people who are staying home are tentative about going outside, said Dr. Valerie Hawthorne, director of government relations for the North Texas Food Bank. “This progressive policy meets people where they are. We are excited that a modern approach to SNAP will make nutritious foods accessible to all.”
Emily De Maria, chief program officer at the Central Texas Food Bank, also had a positive response, but also had a reminder for recipients.
“At the Central Texas Food Bank, we recognize that this option will be extremely helpful to Texans who face significant challenges accessing grocery retailers, whether due to health conditions, transportation limitations or other factors,” she said. “It is important for SNAP recipients to understand that this program does not allow the use of benefits to cover the cost of delivery, which could still present significant food access barriers for many of our clients.”
The new option may also reduce the stigma associated with food stamps.
“Through this model, clients can shop for healthy foods without risking their health. COVID-19 has changed the way SNAP and retailers serve clients. The benefits to digital shopping helps to remove the SNAP stigma in public. It is now a dignified experience for our clients,” said Serene Coleman, director of Community Assistance Program Services at the Houston Food Bank.
“We anticipate we will have a new wave of clients who have been furloughed and are currently receiving unemployment benefits and/or have had their work hours reduced. This client will most likely already be a digital shopper.”
Elliott Sprehe, a spokesman for the Texas Health & Human Services Commission, said in an email Friday that when comparing the April 2020 application count for SNAP to April 2019, there has been an increase of 263 percent.
Need to apply for SNAP benefits? Go to YourTexasBenefits.com and click “Apply.”