Pilot Program Will Enable Food Stamp Users In Two Bronx Zip Codes To Buy Online Groceries
NEW YORK – FreshDirect today launched a food stamp pilot program that will support EBT transactions for online purchases of groceries in two Bronx zip codes. New Yorkers living in zip code 10454, which encompasses Port Morris and Mott Haven, and 10455, which encompasses Woodstock will be eligible to use their EBT accounts to purchase from FreshDirect starting on September 14.
FreshDirect CEO Jason Ackerman said, “In the short term, this unprecedented pilot will provide food stamp users in parts of the Bronx greater access to fresh groceries. But its real value is over the long term since it has the potential to modernize a critical food assistance program and help more people purchase quality produce and other healthy foods in a convenient way.”
FreshDirect said the pilot program is aimed at changing a federal policy that keeps food stamp recipients from using their benefits to purchase groceries over the Internet. Currently, federal law prohibits recipients of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) from purchasing groceries through online vendors like FreshDirect. As a result, Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT), the payment system for SNAP recipients, does not support Internet transactions.
The company said it will use the program to identify EBT modifications that may need to be made to the EBT system in an effort to make online groceries accessible to food stamp users. FreshDirect will then provide internal company data as well as customer feedback to the USDA in order to help develop a new policy for expanding online EBT food payments.
Bronx customers in the two zip codes will be able to use their EBT account cards for all EBT-eligible items on FreshDirect’s website and iPhone or Android mobile apps, free of delivery charges or sales tax. Additionally, FreshDirect will send a promotional offer and other informational materials via direct mail to approximately all (24,000) households in the above mentioned zip codes by the end of September – part of the company’s efforts to raise awareness about the pilot.
FreshDirect service will be available 6 days per week during either a 6:30am to 2pm or 2pm to 10pm delivery time block, mirroring the windows offered to non-EBT customers in these zip codes. Additionally, customer service lines will be available in English Monday through Sunday from 6:30am to midnight and in Spanish from 8am until midnight, for customers in need of assistance.
In order to comply with current EBT regulations, FreshDirect will make several business modifications, including waiving all delivery charges for food stamp orders; paying the difference in cost if an EBT customer receives merchandise in excess of weight or amount than what he or she ordered; investing thousands of dollars in offline payment processing machines to accept EBT payments at the point of delivery; and developing delivery software and modifying its website interface to exclude non-EBT-authorized merchandise from EBT orders and to reconcile individual EBT accounts – something currently unavailable with mobile EBT processing devices.
FreshDirect is a leading online grocer in the U.S., delivering premium quality fresh-from-the-farm foods and brand-name groceries. It delivers to customers in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. With a 2,000-member workforce that is still growing, FreshDirect places an emphasis on nutritious, delicious meals and convenient services that allow customers more time to live healthy lives. FreshDirect also aspires to be a valued corporate partner in all communities in which it serves.