The U.S. Department of Agriculture has chosen Dash's Market to take part in a pilot program that will allow Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program participants to buy groceries online.
Dash's is one of just seven companies in the country that was invited to participate, along with Amazon, FreshDirect, Safeway, ShopRite, Hart's Local Grocers and Hy-Vee. Customers will be able to buy eligible items online using SNAP benefits, then opt for either curbside pickup or home delivery. They cannot use SNAP to pay for fees or delivery charges.
Dash's owner Joe Dash said the pilot will allow the company to serve a segment of the population it couldn't reach in the past, such as those with low incomes and mobility impairments.
"We're now able to improve healthy food access to those community members who need it most," Dash said.
The pilot will let the USDA test its online ordering and payment capabilities, each of which pose their own technical and security challenges. The USDA will work to keep the process secure and also to prevent illegal activity, so it has higher layers of security than most other online payment systems.
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack called the program a "lifeline" for beneficiaries living in urban and rural communities where access to healthy food can be limited. Once the security and technology challenges are worked out with the pilot, he expects the program to be rolled out nationally. The two-year pilot begins this summer.
Dash's began offering online grocery shopping in 2015 and began taking SNAP and Electronic Benefits Transfer for curbside pickup orders last year. Its uses Rosie, a mobile and web platform from Ithaca. The grocer recently expanded its Dash's Delivers market area to include Grand Island.