Most SNAP Recipients Can Now Order Groceries on Instacart - Is that a Good Thing?

SNAP recipients will now have more options, but need to be wary of prices.
Updated July 11, 2024
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Instacart, the leading grocery technology company, is taking significant strides to enhance accessibility and affordability for individuals relying on federal benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This move not only extends the convenience of online grocery shopping but also aligns with Instacart's commitment to promoting food as medicine.

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Instacart's SNAP expansion

Instacart has become the first online grocery marketplace to accept SNAP benefits in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. The recent addition of Alaska to its service area solidifies its nationwide coverage. 

Instacart accepts SNAP benefits for same-day delivery from popular retailers, including Food City, Gordon Food Service, Hy-Vee, Schnucks, and several Kroger banners such as Baker’s, City Market, Dillons, Fred Meyer, and more. 

This expansion encompasses more than 170 retail banners, covering over 14,000 stores and reaching 96% of SNAP households in the U.S.

How it works

To utilize SNAP benefits on Instacart, customers can seamlessly add their SNAP payment card to their Instacart profile. At the checkout stage, SNAP users can allocate their benefits to eligible items in their order. 

This streamlined process empowers families to exercise greater choice and experience the convenience of having groceries from a wide range of retailers delivered right to their doorstep.

Who can benefit?

This initiative is particularly advantageous for SNAP recipients, providing them with an accessible and affordable online shopping and delivery experience. Recognizing the challenges SNAP households face, Instacart aims to offer greater dignity of choice, allowing families to maximize their grocery budgets, save time, and alleviate the grocery shopping burden. 

To further support SNAP participants, Instacart offers a discounted Instacart+ membership, providing access to same-day delivery and pickup from over 1,400 retail banners across the country.

Is it a good idea?

While expanding SNAP acceptance on Instacart is a positive step toward inclusivity, some considerations merit attention. Instacart has gained a reputation for being relatively expensive, with food prices marked up on the platform. This markup can result in users getting less value for their SNAP benefits when compared to traditional in-store shopping. 

However, research indicates that online grocery shopping offers significant advantages for low-income households, helping them extend food budgets, save time, and reduce stress.

It’s important to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of using an online service like Instacart. It might provide convenience during a time of need, but SNAP recipients will need to be vigilant about prices to make sure they are getting the most bang for their buck.

Bottom line

Instacart's commitment to expanding SNAP acceptance aligns with its broader mission of transforming how people shop for groceries. The nationwide coverage and partnerships with various retailers signify a step forward in making online grocery shopping more inclusive and potentially help someone make their paycheck stretch a bit further.

While affordability concerns exist, especially given Instacart's pricing structure, the potential benefits for SNAP recipients in terms of convenience, choice, and time savings cannot be overlooked. As Instacart continues to bridge gaps and collaborate with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for food-as-medicine initiatives, these efforts could contribute positively to health outcomes and equity across the nation.

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Author Details

Georgina Tzanetos Georgina Tzanetos is a former financial advisor who has been active in financial media for the past six years. She holds a master's in political economy from NYU, where she studied distressed labor markets.