Texas Health & Human Services Commission this week announced the launch of a statewide pilot program allowing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients to purchase groceries online at participating retailers for curbside pickup or delivery.

The Children’s Defense Fund-Texas is very supportive of any measures that make it easier and safer for low-income families to get access to healthy and nutritious food.

Online grocery shopping is new to many people; even more so for low-income families on SNAP. I went online to see what this would look like and what the process would be and It was cumbersome to me, since I have not visited online grocery shopping before. It took me a while to view items and switch from fruits to meat and other options.

Many of the communities we serve may not have reliable access to the internet, which would be a barrier to fully using this option, also it may not be a familiar way of getting or choosing the items they need and want.

Graciela Camarena of the Children’s Defense Fund-Texas. (Photo: RGG/Steve Taylor)

Educating clients on how to use this option would be helpful. Explaining the designated pick-up areas, curbside or delivery steps is important.

The HHSC news release was issued on May 12 and it stated that currently there were only two participating retailers contracted for now, Walmart and Amazon. The reality is that it is limiting things to only Walmart since Amazon may not be a common place to buy groceries. Hopefully H.E.B. and other local markets are able to join soon.   

To place an order online, one needs to set up an account first. The requirement to set up an account is an email address and an active debit or credit card. If you are successful and have these items to set up the account, then you can log-in and save your EBT card information for checkout, but have to wait at least 24 hours after you save the card information before it can be used.

There is also a $30 minimum check out purchase, but I did see a way to override this restriction when using EBT, but it may not be clearly explained.

Overall, it is another way to get access to groceries in a safe manner, it may not be ideal, but at least it is an option that may work for some SNAP recipients, especially those who are new to SNAP, but not new to online shopping. Since we know many individuals and families have lost their jobs and have needed to apply for SNAP benefits, this option may work for that group of benefit recipients.

Children’s Defense Fund-Texas will participate in disseminating the information about this new option for grocery shopping using SNAP benefits via our Facebook page and other venues that may reach families.

Editor’s Note: the above commentary is based on notes sent in an email by the author to the Rio Grande Guardian in response to a news release by the Texas Health & Human Services Commission. The commentary appears in the Rio Grande Guardian with the author’s permission. The author is Graciela Camarena, child health outreach program director in the Rio Grande Valley for the Children’s Defense Fund-Texas. Graciela Camarena can be reached at [email protected].

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