As online shopping becomes the norm, Amazon is courting food stamp shoppers, according to a report by Bloomberg.
The eCommerce giant, along with Walmart and Wakefern Food Corp.‘s ShopRite stores, participates in a pilot program that lets EBT card users buy groceries online for delivery or pickup, Bloomberg reported.
When Congress began allowing more food assistance due to the pandemic, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) expanded the online program, which is available in 46 states and the District of Columbia, according to Bloomberg. The number of individuals on government benefits using online shopping for groceries has increased 50-fold since the beginning of the pandemic. More than 1 million U.S. households are now using government benefits each month to buy groceries online.
Ian Babcock, 55, uses the program, which he said “potentially is a lifesaver” for those on government benefits, according to Bloomberg. Babcock has chronic health issues and a suppressed immune system, and he said Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is “providing a service I can’t get elsewhere.”
Amazon has seen the program as a way to access some of the $55 billion spent by food stamp recipients last year. That number spiked by 20 percent during the first four months of this year, Bloomberg reported. In addition, as food stamp users usually go to Walmart or other physical grocery stores, Amazon was able to eat into that market during the pandemic’s shift away from in-person shopping. The eCommerce giant, having already almost hit saturation with higher-income U.S. residents, was in need of new areas in which to expand.
Kristina Herrmann, the company’s director of underserved populations, said the program should help to “dramatically increase” access to food for more customers, according to Bloomberg.
In related news, PYMNTS reported that Instacart and ALDI have partnered on a new solution for same-day delivery or pickup orders using EBT. But as the EBT program doesn’t help with toiletries or alcohol, customers can choose how much money per purchase to apply to the EBT-accepted items.