WASHINGTON D.C., DC — In D.C. the pandemic has made it harder for many people to get food. Food banks have felt the stress and there have been long lines of people waiting to get a free meal.
On Wednesday, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced a new way for people who use SNAP benefits, also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, to use their benefits without setting foot in a store.
"Several weeks ago, we applied for a waiver from the federal government that would allow SNAP beneficiaries to use their benefits to buy groceries online, and starting today people will be able to do that through Amazon," Bowser said.
D.C. is one of 15 states and regions to be a part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s online purchasing pilot program.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, one in eight D.C. residents receive food stamps and more than half of those SNAP participants are families with children.
"Unfortunately, people using SNAP benefits have been forced to go to grocery stores still during this, they haven't been able to use their benefits to order food online and have it delivered to them," Melissa Jensen, the Anti-Hunger Program Associate for D.C. Hunger Solutions, said.
Jensen said stay-at-home orders have made it harder for people to get food, and food stamp applications in the District are up 100%.
"There’s always been poverty in the district, but with the rise of people filing for unemployment as well, food insecurity is definitely on the rise," Jensen said. "We've been saying this for a while, that we're one recession, one crisis away from people just losing everything. This is that crisis."
Jensen said for those who have access to a computer or phone, being able to use SNAP benefits on Amazon can be a great resource, especially in wards seven or eight where there are limited grocery stores.
"Even if people are going to the grocery store they have to travel quite a bit to get there, maybe use public transportation or pay extra for a cab, exposing themselves possibly to COVID in the process to get to the one grocery store that's still miles away from them," Jensen said. "Now they can have at least that opportunity to get some of that delivered at home."
Amazon is the only online retailer approved for D.C. residents with SNAP benefits.