Iowa EBT users can now order groceries online for pickup and delivery

With Iowans on grocery stamps expected to get more benefits under a new stimulus package that was incorporated into law on Dec. 27, those looking to use their electronic power transfer cards to order groceries online will expand their options.

Aldi, in partnership with delivery service Instacart, was the newest grocery chain to offer service to Iowa participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as Grocery Brands, on December 17th. The chain joined two major retailers, Amazon and Walmart.

During the pandemic, more Iowa retailers joined other pilots to enable SNAP participants to have grocery delivery and roadside collection, an option that has long been unavailable to them. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to recommend restricting grocery store visits and using online services when possible.

In early August, Hy-Vee also offered grocery stamp recipients the option to use EBT cards to pay for groceries they order for roadside pickup. The chain does not yet offer a delivery option.

A Hy-Vee Aisles online grocery collection center can be seen in Waukee on December 30, 2020.  The company is in the first phase of rolling out an online SNAP / EBT ordering platform, said Hy-Vee spokeswoman Tina Potthoff.

Michelle Book, President and CEO of the Food Bank of Iowa, said expanding the ability to order groceries online using EBT payments will not only help people stay safe at home during the pandemic, but will also help those out who do not have transportation and would have to spend a lot of time on a bus trip to a supermarket.

“There are others who could take it up,” she said.

Increased SNAP benefits are “critical”

Iowa SNAP claims increased in the spring as jobless claims rose dramatically. Food insecurity has continued to be an issue throughout the pandemic, and local food pantries said their resources are in high demand.

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According to statistics from the Iowa Department of Human Services, weekly food and cash assistance requests for the first three weeks of December were above 2019 levels.

The federal stimulus package signed into law by President Donald Trump will, among other things, expand the food stamps for those already on the program. Users receive a 15% increase in monthly benefits for six months.

Hy-Vee Aisles 'online agent Braden Senne loads groceries into customers' cars in Waukee on December 30, 2020.  The company is in the first phase of rolling out an online SNAP / EBT ordering platform, said Hy-Vee spokeswoman Tina Potthoff.

That addition was badly needed, Book said. With food insecurity mounting, Iowa Feeding America’s food banks have distributed 30% more food in the past nine months than in the same period last year, she said. The Food Banks’ food aid hotline has helped 44% more Iowans apply for SNAP benefits over the past nine months, she said.

She said that during the pandemic, with some Iowans having to wait long for unemployment checks to arrive, access to food aid was established faster and served as a first line of defense.

“The increased benefits for SNAP are critical,” she said. “People don’t understand how little it really is with SNAP perks. They don’t completely care about hunger.”

This is how the Aldi, Instacart service works

Iowans will have more options to take advantage of the benefits online through the USDA pilot program that began in April 2019. Forty-six states and the District of Columbia are currently participating in the program, which Iowa joined in March.

Aldi and Instacart announced on December 17 that the companies will be expanding their partnership to Iowa. Aldi, which operates more than 30 locations in Iowa, announced the move as part of an expansion into several states in December following pilot programs in four other states. The program now operates in 29 states and the District of Columbia.

“ALDI is proud to be the first grocery retailer to accept EBT SNAP benefits as an online payment method through Instacart for grocery delivery and roadside collection,” said Matt Lilla, vice president of Aldi in Faribault, Minnesota, in a E-mail statement.

During the first 90 days, Instacart waives delivery and collection fees for the first three orders per customer in the program.

Matt Highland, spokesman for the Iowa Department of Human Services, said the state agency has no role in approving retailers but would “always support better access” to online ordering for grocery brand recipients.

Hy-Vee in the first phase of the SNAP / EBT project

West Des Moines’ Hy-Vee launched a pickup option in early August that allows grocery stamp recipients to pay with their EBT cards upon arrival to collect their groceries.

Customers cannot load an EBT card online as a form of payment and must reserve their order with a debit or credit card and then pay by EBT upon arrival to purchase groceries. In contrast to the system used by Aldi, Amazon and Walmart, EBT users cannot yet order food for delivery from Hy-Vee.

Hy-Vee spokeswoman Tina Potthoff said the company is in the first phase of rolling out its online ordering platform for SNAP / EBT groceries. In a second phase, customers can order online collection with EBT cards. A third phase then enables the delivery of food. She said she didn’t have a timeline for implementation.

“That’s definitely one of the things we’re looking at to make the process easier for that particular group of customers,” said Potthoff. “Sometimes people don’t even have a credit card, so we want to make sure we’re doing everything we can for them.”

How and where to use grocery stamps to order groceries online

Aldi: Recipients of grocery stamps can shop at Aldi via the Instacart website or the mobile app by entering their EBT card information as a means of payment in their profile. Aldi is delivered and picked up daily from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. via Instacart. Users need a secondary payment method for items and fees that do not meet SNAP requirements.

Amazon: Users can add their SNAP EBT card to their online profile, shop for groceries and use their personal EBT identification number to pay at the checkout. Users have access to Amazon Fresh and receive free shipping on Amazon Pantry for orders of $ 35 or more.

Hy-Vee: Customers can use Hy-Vee.com or the Hy-Vee Aisles online mobile app to search for groceries online and select the store where they want to collect their order. Customers choose SNAP / EBT as their payment method and can pay with their electronic card upon arrival at the store and pay for items not eligible for EBT with a credit or debit card. This option requires users to first enter information online for a credit or debit card.

Walmart:Shoppers can order groceries from the Walmart website. To pay with EBT, users need to log into their Walmart pickup and delivery account and add their EBT card. You can use the EBT card to pay at the checkout.

Ian Richardson covers the Iowa Statehouse for the Des Moines Register. You can reach him at [email protected], at 515-284-8254, or on Twitter at @DMRIanR.

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