Residents of Illinois who are on food stamps will be able to shop online starting next summer. A two-year program is aiming to expand food access for the poor and will be launched next summer.
Most middle-class Americans already changed their buying habits to include online shopping. Now, the 75-billion-dollar food stamps program Is going to give that option to 43 million people across America who receive benefits. The food stamp program is officially called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program (SNAP, in short).
The practice run, authorized since 2014, should help the American Department of Agriculture to see what works and what doesn’t, before making the option available nationwide. To achieve this purpose, USDA is going to make a request for online stores to take part in the program. Five sellers across three states will be chosen and the program should start next summer.
In Illinois, there are 1.9 million people on SNAP, a figure up by 700,000 people since 2006. Most of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits are claimed at supermarkets like Costco, in “food deserts”, which are poorer African American neighborhoods in Chicago’s South and West sides.
This is why in many areas access to healthy food is limited to what corner stores offer.
USDA Undersecretary, Kevin Concannon recently said that online sales for the SNAP program are a “step in the right way” for those living in poorer areas.
Mari Ghallager, a researcher on food issues came up with the term “food desert” in a study dating back to 2006. She considers the new SNAP program overdue, but she is happy the USDA will go on with it.
The online shopping trend has so far not been for everyone. Many families from all economic backgrounds are busy and cannot shop. This helps to bridge the gap between the mainstream and the SNAP recipients – according to Ghallagher.
In a study conducted in 2012, it was found that most authorized retailers in the Roseland and Pullman areas did not offer healthy choices.
The program will probably be of highest service to the elderly and the disabled, as many have difficulty reaching food stores.
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