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Online Shopping: Increasing Access and Well-Being

This April we’ve been writing about stress, in particular how communities can take simple steps to be more resilient in the face of stress.  One way to tamp down stress is to remove barriers that make it time-consuming, expensive or burdensome to do the things that keep us healthy and well.  

Take the new-ish trend of shopping online for groceries.  Five years ago, grocery shopping through Amazon or Walmart wasn’t on the mainstream radar.   But flash forward to 2019, and Amazon, Walmart, Whole Foods Market, Thrive and a myriad of other markets have gone digital and nearly every local supermarket offers online ordering with curbside pick-up or delivery.  What seemed a little while back to be a luxury is actually proving to be a game-changer for many people. Online grocery shopping is scratching an itch.

You likely know that itch.  It’s the grocery grind. The weekly trip with the long list and limited budget, often with cranky kids in tow, that eats into family or personal time that could otherwise be used catching up on laundry, prepping meals for the week, balancing the checkbook or maybe even getting in a workout.  And that’s my story. I can only imagine the grocery task without a car, or with more kids, or a smaller budget or any number of challenges many people in our community face day in and day out.

That’s why we nearly jumped for joy when we saw that the USDA is launching a pilot program that will allow users of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to grocery shop online.  In the works since 2014, the program will start in New York and is slated to expand to Alabama, Iowa, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington in the coming months. SNAP users in those areas will be able to place online orders through a range of food retailers including Amazon Fresh, Prime Pantry and Walmart.

While SNAP benefits will still be eligible for food purchases only and cannot be used to pay for fees and delivery costs, program proponents still see tremendous upside potential in making online grocery shopping available to SNAP users. Online retailers often feature bulk pricing, have lower retail mark-ups and larger selections than may be available at the local shops.  Not to mention the savings in time and transportation costs. Intangible benefits, like having a few more hours in the day and having the tools to make better financial choices, have the potential to increase users’ overall well-being and productivity.

Learn more about the pilot program here and let us know what you think!  


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