For Boston residents who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), gaining access to food has proven even more difficult as stay-at-home advisories and limited transportation options continue during the COVID-19 pandemic.
More Bostonians are opting to remain at home during the City’s coronavirus surge, resulting in grocery delivery services no longer having available delivery time slots for the next two weeks in many neighborhoods.
Although all residents have access to food delivery service apps, platforms such as UberEats and DoorDash do not accept EBT. Therefore, many residents are forced to travel long distances to visit grocery stores, only to then be met with empty shelves as markets continue to face difficulties with keeping certain essentials stocked.
“Trying day after day to order food online before finally securing a delivery was certainly an inconvenience and even a little worrisome given how little food I actually had in my house, but I knew that I would be good because I have options. I have a choice. Even though I don’t own a car, I have greater access to food because I can purchase food online,” stated City Council President Kim Janey, addressing the lack of options for those on SNAP benefits.
According to Councilor Janey, 11% of Massachusetts residents and 19% of residents in Suffolk County are on SNAP benefits. While many residents are able to minimize risk by shopping for groceries from the safety of their homes, those on benefits are forced to visit stores in person, which places poorer communities at risk of increased infection rates.
Councilor Kenzie Bok (District 8) expressed the importance of adding the City Council’s voice to the conversation to speed up the process of implementing an EBT Online Purchasing Program in Massachusetts. As Boston continues to advocate for minimal grocery store trips, the demand for food has been steadily increasing during a time where food insecurity is at an all-time high.
“Typically, the state sees about 6,000 new SNAP applicants in a week. In the first week of April, it was 22,000; which is a level we’ve never seen before,” Councilor Bok said on Wednesday afternoon.
Councilor Janey urged for federal assistance with the state’s government in order to implement an EBT Online Purchasing Program. Although the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service Agency launched a pilot program with select retailers in six states, Massachusetts is currently not one of those participating states.