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Online grocery shopping with food stamps surges for Amazon, Walmart amid coronavirus

Online grocery shopping with food stamps surges for Amazon, Walmart amid coronavirus
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The number of online grocery store shoppers using Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, or food stamps, has risen sharply amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

According to Bloomberg, the number of U.S. households using government benefits each month to buy groceries online has experienced a 50-fold increase this year after the Department of Agriculture (USDA) expanded options for recipients of food stamps to use their benefits for online shopping. 

The majority of online grocery shoppers have made their purchases through Amazon and Walmart, which Bloomberg reported are the only retailers in most states allowed to participate in the USDA’s online shopping pilot program. 

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In September, more than 1.1 million U.S. households used their government benefits to buy groceries online, although Bloomberg reported this is a small fraction of total food aid. 

The most recent SNAP program data showed that more than 22 million households received food stamps in April. 

According to the USDA, only eligible food may be purchased with SNAP benefits and "delivery fees and other associated charges may not be paid for with SNAP benefits."

On Amazon's SNAP page, the company says it now accepts SNAP in all states except Alaska, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine and Montana.

This comes after Amazon opened its first Whole Foods Market online-only store in Brooklyn in September to fulfill online grocery delivery orders. 

Online grocery shopping has become increasingly popular amid rising coronavirus surges across the country. On Thursday, the U.S. for the first time surpassed a daily increase of 150,000 recorded infections, while the number of hospitalizations due to the virus hit a record of 67,096.