From March to September 2020, NC Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) distributed benefits to 434,209 people and 320,329 households, for a total of $ 332,304,796. As the pandemic continues to keep shoppers socially distanced, a national delivery platform, Instacart, has launched a pilot SNAP online shopping program that serves people receiving food assistance. Through Instacart’s mobile app and website, EBT retailers have been added in North Carolina including Aldi, Amazon, Carlie C’s, Walmart and the latest addition from Food Lion.
“The addition of another retailer where people can use their EBT cards for online shopping continues to make the FNS program more accessible and convenient for families to shop safely, practice social distancing and get the nutrition they need during this pandemic, “NCDHHS Assistant Secretary for Human Services Tara Myers said in a press release.
According to recent findings from the NC Justice Center, NC ranks 10th in the country for food insecurity. Essentially, 590,000 households do not have food to eat on a daily basis.
By expanding its online retailers, NC FNS and Instacart can help individuals and families who lack transportation or have mobility barriers more easily access groceries. Those in food deserts who cannot buy fresh produce near them also benefit.
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As a bonus, Instacart waives delivery and pickup fees for the first three orders FNS recipients place with their EBT cards. Subsequently, people will have to cover the delivery cost with another payment method, as EBT purchases can only be made for food.
As shoppers choose a retailer and add groceries to their Instacart, they’ll complete the checkout process by choosing how much of their perks allowance should go toward their purchase.
According to a press release from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, the state was among the first to allow SNSF recipients to make online purchases through EBT. Although inspired by the increase in online shopping during the pandemic, EBT online retailers will be permanent for NC recipients in the future.
Retailers who wish to accept EBT through online shopping must apply through the US Department of Agriculture.
“All EBT retailers in North Carolina have received information from the USDA on how to be approved for FNS online purchases,” according to the state health department.
In October 2020, the USDA, which oversees the SNAP nationally, increased SNAP’s benefits for fiscal 2021 by more than 5%, double the 20-year average of 2%. The maximum allowance for a SNAP participant is the highest in the history of the program, going from $ 646 to $ 680 for a family of four.
NC has temporarily increased its maximum allocation by 15% until June 30, 2021, as part of the federal coronavirus emergency assistance law of 2020.
In 2021, the USDA extended the benefits by:
- Allow states to issue additional emergency SNAP benefits totaling over $ 2 billion per month, increasing SNAP benefits by 40%
- Expansion of the online shopping pilot project to 47 states, covering over 90% of all SNAP households
- Waiving some administrative requirements to make it easier for states to serve their SNAP clients during the pandemic
- Implement pandemic EBT, which provides SNAP-like benefits to 99% of children normally receiving free or discounted school meals
- Meals for Kids interactive site search engine launched to help families find free meals for children in over 77,000 locations during school closures
- Support food banks with over $ 6 billion in food and administrative resources
- Boost $ 50 million in food aid through the Indian Reserve Food Distribution Program
- Support the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service’s Farmers to Families Food Box program, which provides food grown and produced in the United States to low-income households.
NC individuals and families interested in applying for FNS benefits should go to epass.nc.gov.
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