USDA Approves Pilot Program with Amazon and Walmart

Picture of Walmart employee delivering groceries to a parked van

Purchasing groceries has become commonplace in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, Tennessee SNAP recipients can use their benefits to buy food online as well. Photo by M. Haupt, courtesy of Unsplash. 

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – COVID-19 has changed many aspects of our daily lives. The way we communicate, interact with others, work and worship have all changed. Changes have also occurred in how we shop for food. Making a trip to the grocery store, wandering down aisles of products and filling our carts with items from a grocery list have been replaced by some shoppers with websites, clicks, online shopping carts and curbside pickup. As our culture adapts to new challenges, new changes are coming to Tennessee recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits as well.

According to the Tennessee Department of Human Services, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved Tennessee for a pilot program that allows SNAP benefits to be used to buy food online with Amazon and Walmart. SNAP recipients will be able to use their benefits to buy food on Amazon beginning June 1, 2020 and will be able to use their benefits to buy food online with Walmart across the state beginning on June 2, 2020. Plans are in place to expand online SNAP purchasing to more retailers in the future.

“This is a monumental change for more than 900,000 Tennesseans who receive SNAP benefits,” states Christopher T. Sneed, assistant professor and consumer economics specialist with University of Tennessee Extension. “This change will allow families the ease and convenience of online grocery shopping while simultaneously helping them practice social distancing measures that are necessary to help slow the spread of COVID-19.”

The websites for both retailers include instructions for using SNAP benefits to buy food online. Amazon shoppers can visit amazon.com/snap-ebt and Walmart shoppers can visit walmart.com. More information about using SNAP benefits to buy food online can be found at the Tennessee Department of Human Services website

For consumers who are new to online grocery shopping, Sneed offers the following suggestions:
  • Research the store’s website. Learn about how the shopping and ordering process works. Doing this early is a good idea, as this will give shoppers time to think about how your shopping experience will work.
  • Learn about substitutions. Determine how the retailer handles substitutions when a particular item you want is unavailable.
  • Stick to your list. Even when shopping online, it is still important to create and use a grocery list. Using a list will help you save money and avoid impulse purchases.
  • Shop when you want. Most grocery store websites will allow you to build your shopping list throughout the week, making it easier to add items to your order when you realize you are out or running low.
  • Stay in contact with the store. Even before your delivery is ready for pickup, it’s important that you pay attention to any correspondence you may receive from the store. These messages could be helpful in making sure that your order is filled correctly and promptly.

For other tips and resources about using SNAP benefits, visit the UT Extension website or contact your local county Extension office.

Through its land-grant mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions. utia.tennessee.edu​.

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Contact:


Christopher T. Sneed, consumer economics specialist, Department of Family and Consumers Sciences, csneed@utk.edu, 865-974-8198