In a move to advance SNAP online programs for independent grocers, the National Grocers Association Foundation (NGAF) has been awarded a $5 million grant by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), NGAF announced Thursday.
The funds will be used to create the SNAP EBT Modernization Technical Assistance Center (SEMTAC), fund required technology, and support the Mobile Payments Pilot. SEMTAC will educate retailers on the federal requirements for SNAP EBT modernization, including the online purchasing and mobile payment programs, NGA said.
“Independent community grocers have been actively pursuing expansion of their online purchasing platforms, including online SNAP and mobile payment capabilities, to meet the ever-growing consumer demand for online shopping, but obstacles and a lack of resources have hindered the ability of many smaller retailers to pursue innovative solutions, resulting in reduced access for customers to needed essential food products and services,” said Chelsea Matzen, NGAF director, in a statement.
To increase access to online grocery purchasing, NGAF said this is vital to rural communities and areas served by stores with limited selections of healthy foods.
“Small stores are the heartbeat of towns across America. They're often individually owned and operated, create local employment opportunities, and provide essential resources for their community, but they also may not have the same resources that bigger stores have at their fingertips,” said Stacy Dean, deputy undersecretary for USDA’s Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, in a statement.
Funds will “pave the way for more smaller grocery operators to offer SNAP online purchasing, making them more competitive in their respective market areas and better able to provide service to food-insecure Americans,” Matzen said.
Earlier initiatives include a SNAP Online Resource Guide for brick-and-mortar retailers, a toolkit that discusses purchasing requirements, and tips for set-up and best practices.
The NGAF, which is the 501(c)3 nonprofit arm of the National Grocers Association (NGA), assists independent retailers with recruiting programs, enhanced retention efforts and professional leadership development opportunities for employers.