During the two-year program, some of New York’s 2.7 million participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will be able to order their groceries online. The New York City area will be covered by Amazon and ShopRite, while the upstate area will be covered by Walmart. The program is expected to eventually expand throughout the state and reach other states, including New Jersey, Maryland, Alabama, Iowa, Nebraska, Washington and Oregon.
Thirteen percent of New Yorkers receive food stamps. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said that SNAP recipients should have the same shopping options as those who don’t get food stamps. Around 20 percent of SNAP recipients are said to be either disabled or elderly, making it a challenge to get healthy food from supermarkets. Participants won’t be able to use their benefits toward service or delivery fees, but Amazon plans to allow SNAP recipients to get free delivery on purchases of more than $50 in Amazon Fresh.
University of North Carolina Charlotte Professor of Public Health Elizabeth Racine said: “There is a lot of money that is pumped into the food store system via SNAP, so retailers are going to try and maximize that.” Right now, almost 82 percent of all purchases made with food stamps are made at supermarkets and superstores.
While they are trying to portray this as an act that has the best interests of welfare recipients in mind, the grocery stores and food companies are the big winners here, especially those who make processed food. SNAP participants consume fewer vegetables, fruits and whole grains and more added sugars than low-income people not enrolled in the program, studies show. It will now be easier than ever for people to pay for their junk food, and they won’t even have to get up off their sofa to go pick it up.
Soda companies in particular stand to benefit, as soft drinks are the number one purchases made by SNAP households, accounting for 5 percent of the money they spend on food. This has prompted experts like New York University Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health Professor Marion Nestle to call SNAP a “multibillion-dollar taxpayer subsidy of the soda industry.”
It’s also really good news for banks, who are already profiting from every food stamp transaction. Electronic benefits transfer, or EBT cards, are used to deliver the benefits, and just like the debit cards they resemble, they earn banks a nice amount of revenue. Banks are contracted by state, federal and municipal agencies to provide the cards and services, and they charge fees and penalties for stores that use them.
The idea of using SNAP benefits on grocery delivery is really just another way to promote processed foods and help the corrupt banks that earn money on every transaction the program’s recipients make.
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