People who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—or SNAP—benefits can now order groceries online. A Peoria nonprofit is testing how well the program serves public housing residents.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture launched its Online Purchasing Pilot in June. It allows grocery stores to accept Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards as a form of payment for online orders.
Julie Eliathamby, founder of Peoria Grown, said people who receive food assistance have long been excluded from the convenience of ordering groceries for curbside pickup or delivery.
"That was not something that they could utilize because most of these individuals—most of the families—we serve, they don't have a credit card,” she said.
Eliathamby said that's on top of challenges with transportation, child care, and the time crunch of working multiple jobs—all while living in a food desert.
She said online ordering will eliminate many of those obstacles.
"All those communities that for such a long time, [did] not have a grocery store that was close by for them to go to—that issue is gone,” she said.
Eliathamby said HyVee on Sheridan is currently the only local store allowing patients to order groceries online with their EBT card. Benefits cannot be used to cover the cost of delivery.
Peoria Grown is partnering with HyVee to offer free delivery to residents of Taft and Harrison Homes during select times on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The service runs from July 16 through Aug. 13.
Eliathamby said they're hoping to gather data on how well the program works.
"We wanted to see, just by rolling it out, if there are some barriers to this,” she said. “If people are really, truly using it—and if they're not, why?"
Access to the internet and a smartphone or other device for ordering is one potential hurdle, she said. Peoria Grown plans to use the information they gather to recommend improvements and get more stores on board.
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