One of many actions to modernize federal nutrition programs
Washington, March 8, 2023 – The USDA Food and Nutrition Service is partnering with five states to test mobile payment technology in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP. In the next few years, SNAP participants in Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, and Oklahoma will have the option to use mobile payments methods – like tapping or scanning their personal mobile device – as an alternative to their physical SNAP card.
SNAP serves millions of low-income families and children each month. Mobile payments — widely considered a safe, secure, and convenient way to shop for groceries — is one way we can help make it easier for busy families to put healthy food on the table. The technology also has the potential to help protect families from having their SNAP benefits stolen because of card skimming and other fraud.
“Today’s announcement represents another step forward for the future of SNAP and the many ways our programs are embracing modern and innovative ideas to improve nutrition security,” said Stacy Dean, USDA deputy undersecretary for food, nutrition, and consumer services. “Digital wallets are changing the way we pay for everything, including groceries. We want to ensure SNAP leverages the latest technology to improve access to benefits, reduce fraud, and provide a better overall experience for the families we serve.”
The Mobile Payment Pilots are complex projects involving a wide range of stakeholders carefully coordinating efforts. FNS will work with state agencies as well as EBT processors, mobile wallet providers, retailers, and more to support a successful rollout in the pilot states. Neither retailers nor SNAP households are required to participate in the pilots — stores can decide whether to adopt the new technology and make contactless payments available to their SNAP customers, and shoppers can continue to use their EBT card if that’s how they prefer to pay.
The five selected states had this to share:
- “We appreciate the USDA Food and Nutrition Service for extending this opportunity to Missouri as part of their initial rollout,” said Robert J. Knodell, acting director of the Missouri Department of Social Services. “We are excited to work together to provide Missourians with the flexibility and security of a mobile payment option while utilizing their SNAP benefits.”
- “Illinois is pleased to participate in the SNAP Mobile Payment Pilot and help advance access to healthy food throughout the communities we serve,” said Tim Verry, director of Family and Community Services, Illinois Department of Human Services. “In addition to offering a more modern way for SNAP participants to pay in the checkout line, mobile payment technology builds on Illinois’ efforts in fraud prevention by using more secure payment technology.”
- “We are thrilled to be chosen to participate in the SNAP Mobile Payment Pilot,” said Louisiana Department of Children & Family Services Secretary Terri Ricks. “Over the past few years, we’ve focused on ways of using technology to make SNAP applications and purchases easier for the families we serve, including through text messaging reminders, a mobile app for managing benefits, online SNAP purchasing and even a virtual D-SNAP process following disasters. The goal of the Mobile Payment Pilot is to build on these efforts by making purchases more convenient and reducing the time involved in receiving access to benefits.”
- “Our Administration is committed to centering equity in all that we do. Allowing households to buy groceries using SNAP benefits through their mobile device not only creates a more dignified and secure checkout experience, but also provides low-income families access to the same purchasing technologies as other customers,” said Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey. “Massachusetts being selected as one of the Mobile Payment Pilot states highlights how we have been a leader in technology innovation, and I look forward to working with our federal partners to continue delivering results for our residents.”
- “Oklahoma is excited to be a pilot state in the effort to create a quicker, more efficient and secure way of providing SNAP benefits to our state’s most vulnerable citizens,” said Tom Pennington, Oklahoma Human Services financial administrator. “This effort not only reduces the risk of fraud by protecting customer’s accounts through multi-level authentication, it also reduces the stigma associated with SNAP benefits and promotes dignity for our customers while they are trying to put food on the table for their families. We are proud to dedicate the resources and staff required for this pilot to continually modernize our programs and find ways to better serve our customers.”
The mobile payment pilots are one of many actions FNS is taking to modernize SNAP and make it easier for families to buy the foods they need for good health. Other SNAP modernization efforts include expanding SNAP online shopping, partnering with the National Grocers Association Foundation to help small and/or rural retailers get started with SNAP online shopping, and exploring EBT card technology and safeguards.
FNS is also investing in major modernization and innovation efforts across all our programs that support nutrition security for children and families, including the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, known as WIC. For example, FNS recently announced proposed changes that, if finalized, would allow online ordering in WIC. These modernizations are designed to help connect more eligible mothers and young children with the proven benefits of WIC and improve the service they receive throughout their entire experience with the program, which is an integral part of the agency’s urgent and ongoing work to create a healthier future for America’s children through equitable access to nutrition.
FNS’s efforts to modernize federal nutrition programs support the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to designing and delivering services with a focus on the actual experience of the people it serves. The administration believes government must deliver services more equitably and effectively, especially for those who have been historically underserved.
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service works to end hunger and improve food and nutrition security through a suite of more than 15 nutrition assistance programs, such as the school breakfast and lunch programs, WIC and SNAP. Together, these programs serve 1 in 4 Americans over the course of a year, promoting consistent and equitable access to healthy, safe, and affordable food essential to optimal health and well-being. FNS also provides science-based nutrition recommendations through the co-development of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. FNS’s report, “Leveraging the White House Conference to Promote and Elevate Nutrition Security: The Role of the USDA Food and Nutrition Service,” highlights ways the agency will support the Biden-Harris Administration’s National Strategy, released in conjunction with the historic White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health in September 2022. To learn more about FNS, visit www.fns.usda.gov and follow @USDANutrition.