As Covid-19 cases spike around the country, grocers and technology companies alike are scrambling to blunt the pandemic’s financial impact. On Thursday, the online delivery service Instacart announced it is starting a program with the grocery chain Aldi to allow recipients of federal SNAP benefits to use their electronic benefit transfer cards to order pick-up or delivery.
The initiative is the first time SNAP recipients will be able to use their benefit cards to order pickup or delivery of groceries, according to the two companies. The service is slated to start in Georgia at more than 60 Aldi locations “in coming weeks,” the companies say, and then expand to more than 570 stores in Illinois, California, Florida, and Pennsylvania “in coming months.” The SNAP benefit is the electronic successor to the longstanding food-stamp program for low-income recipients.
Instacart already delivers for more than 2,000 U.S. Aldi stores, with pickup service available at some 700 locations.
In the new program, users will enter their EBT card information as a form of payment on the Instacart mobile app or Web site. Once they’ve filled their shopping cart, they can allocate their SNAP benefits and choose pickup or delivery.
SNAP recipients can use their EBT cards to pay only for groceries. Items such as taxes or tips must be paid for by other methods, the companies say. “Enabling customers to use their SNAP/EBT benefits for their grocery delivery and curbside pickup orders is an important extension of our in-store payment policy,” said Brent Laubaugh, co-president at Aldi U.S., in a statement. “While the option is only available in select markets at the moment, we’re eager to roll out this update broadly as quickly as possible.”
While the new program is a first for SNAP benefits involving grocery delivery, the U.S. Department of Agriculture last year agreed to let holders of EBT cards spend their benefits online using technology developed by Fiserv Inc. By August, that initiative had spread to 42 states and the District of Columbia, up from seven states in March. The program allows users to enter their PIN, which is required with SNAP benefits, using online PIN-entry technology developed by Fiserv. It was not immediately clear if this technology has been deployed for the Instacart-Aldi program.
Overall, San Francisco-based Instacart works with more than 500 retail chains operating almost 40,000 stores in the United States and Canada. The 8-year-old company claims its delivery service can be used by more than 85% of U.S. households and 70% of Canadian ones.