On April 20, Just Harvest and the Pittsburgh Food Policy Council sent the following letter with more than 50 signatories to the heads of the Pennsylvania Departments of Human Services (Teresa Miller) and Agriculture (Russell Reading) and cc’ed Governor Wolf’s office. We also worked with Rep. Innamorato (D-21) on a similar letter to Sec. Miller from her colleagues, which has gained bipartisan support from 44 other state representatives.
This is one of the actions we are taking to enable online and mobile payments with food stamps, which the USDA has not allowed in most of the U.S., including Pa. Expanding access to SNAP Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card transactions is critical to protecting the health and well-being of people who shop with food stamps – during this pandemic and beyond. Be sure to scroll down to see how you can support these efforts.
Dear Secretary Miller and Secretary Redding,
We are writing out of concern for the health and safety of our community and the economic well-being of our local food growers and producers. In order for people to adhere to Center for Disease Control (CDC) social distancing recommendations, to reduce the number of people grocery store workers come into direct contact with, and to enable farmers to facilitate more direct-to-customer sales, we ask that you support retailers in developing ways to accept EBT payments in more environments, such as curbside pickup and payment on delivery, and online sales.
Delivery options need to be available to SNAP households. We know that more than one-third of SNAP households include a family member who is an older adult or someone with a disability. Prior to this pandemic, many of these families relied on ride sharing or public transportation options to go grocery shopping. They now find themselves struggling to find someone to go grocery shopping for them.
Delivery and pickup options that include online EBT payment will allow communities to better serve vulnerable SNAP households. The guidance that USDA has provided about offering payment at pickup options is helpful, but it still means that someone has to present the EBT card at the store. This leaves our vulnerable neighbors to find someone they trust with their EBT card and PIN who is willing to go to the store on their behalf.
We have a number of community groups who are able to organize volunteers to help with grocery pickup for struggling families, seniors, and people with disabilities. However, having volunteers pick up and use someone’s EBT card is challenging, not only because of the obvious security risks, but also because giving a community volunteer access to their physical EBT card prior to picking up a purchase requires close contact and extra travel.
We recognize that retailers have many challenges: packing foods for pickup without items being paid for in advance, delivery costs, and keeping stores stocked and clean with limited staff. We also recognize that implementing online EBT purchases requires a great deal of technical changes and investments, and that retailers who do not already have online purchasing capabilities will have to make significant efforts to enable those purchases.
In addition to grocers struggling to meet this new demand, we are also seeing great pressure being placed on our local farms and producers. Many have relied on sales to schools and restaurants and are now relying more direct-to-customer sales through markets and farm stands to make ends meet. They need access to resources to help facilitate delivery options, including mobile EBT equipment.
We know that addressing these serious challenges requires cooperation across departments. We are asking you to:
- Promote the use and availability of mobile EBT processing equipment so payment can be accepted on delivery or curbside pickup. Retailers should be encouraged to acquire mobile EBT processing equipment to accept payment upon pickup or delivery. This should be included in recommendations for life-sustaining retailers to promote social distancing.
- Expedite soliciting requests and approving grants that provide mobile EBT equipment to farmers markets and farm stands.
- Support legislative efforts to help offset delivery costs, and help facilitate these reimbursements to vendors if passed. Because SNAP benefits cannot pay for delivery fees and because SNAP households are often too low-income to afford delivery fees, retailers should be reimbursed for delivery costs to SNAP households. An example of such legislation is S.3563, introduced by Senator Casey.
- Submit an application to USDA to join the online SNAP Purchasing Pilot promptly so that retailers who are already certified can offer this service as soon as possible. The application should also state that:
a) DHS will develop a transparent and accessible option for new retailers and groups of retailers who share an online purchasing platform to be able to join the pilot in the future.
b) DHS plans to work with the PA Department of Agriculture to help facilitate a shared online purchasing platform for PA producers and growers to accept EBT payments online.
As advocates, farmers, food banks, and retailers, we hope to be partners in these endeavors to address the needs of Pennsylvanians.
Just Harvest and Pittsburgh Food Policy Council
and the undersigned:
|412 Food Rescue|
Allies for Children
Black Women’s Policy Agenda
Bellevue Farmers Market
Bloomfield Development Corporation
Buffalo Valley Lutheran Parish
Burns’ Family Fresh Grocer and ShopRite Supermarkets
Center for Regional Agriculture, Food, and Transformation (CRAFT) at Chatham University
Central Pennsylvania Food Bank
Chambersburg Cares – Healthy Communities Partnership
Chester County Food Bank
City of Pittsburgh
Civil Rights Inc.
Coalition for Low Income Pennsylvanians
Community Action Association of Pennsylvania
Community Action Development Corporation of Bethlehem
Community Justice Project
Community Kitchen Pittsburgh
Community Legal Services of Philadelphia
Fat Hawk Farm
FMB & Associates
Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger
Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank
Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank
Hazel & Olive Urban Farm
Hill District Consensus Group
Hunger Free PA – PA Food Banks
Indiana County Community Action Program, Inc.
|Just Communities Strategies|
Lazarus Gate Food Pantry
Lower Susquehanna Synod, ELCA
Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in PA
Lycoming County ProgressivesNETwork Ministries
Old Time Farm
Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center
Pennsylvania Council of Churches
Pennsylvania Sustainable Agriculture (Pasa)
people’s emergency center
Peters Township Farmers Market
Phoenixville Community Health Foundation
Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership
Pittsburgh Food Policy Council
Public Citizens for Children and Youth
Root Mass Farm
Second Harvest Food Bank
Share Our Strength
Success Against All Odds
Swissvale Farmers Market
The Food Trust
The Foundation for Delaware County
The Gleaning Project
The Small Farmer
Tiny Seed Farm
United Way of Pennsylvania
Upper Susquehanna Synod, ELCA
Western Pennsylvania Chapter – National Young Farmers Coalition
Westmoreland County Food Bank, Inc.
What You Can Do
See your PA state legislator on this list? Contact them to thank them for signing onto this letter. Your support and encouragement of their work on this issue is important! (Not sure who your state rep is? Check here.
Take action to support legislation that would enable grocery delivery for SNAP recipients.