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Amazon, Walmart see online grocery shopping with food stamps surge amid coronavirus, reports say

Kelly Tyko
USA TODAY

Shopping for groceries online for delivery or curbside pickup has grown in popularity amid the coronavirus pandemic with many shoppers looking to make fewer trips to stores.

And using Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, commonly referred to as food stamps, to pay for online grocery trips has been surging.

According to Bloomberg, more than 1 million U.S. households bought groceries online in September using SNAP benefits with the majority of those shoppers turning to Amazon and Walmart, which in most states are the only retailers to take part in the Department of Agriculture's online shopping pilot.

The USDA says that the online pilot is in 46 states and Washington D.C.  Alaska, Lousiana, Maine and Montana are the states not included in the pilot, according to the agency's website.

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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 online shopping giant says it now accepts SNAP EBT in all states except Alaska, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine and Montana.

In September, Amazon-owned Whole Foods Market opening its first permanent online-only store in Brooklyn, New York, to fulfill orders for grocery delivery.

Like other retailers' online-only stores, also known as dark stores, the Whole Foods store is not open to the public. It was being planned for before the pandemic, Nicole Wescoe, Whole Foods president for the Northeast region, previously told USA TODAY.

"We started working on this over a year ago and it was really an opportunity for Amazon and Whole Foods Market to come together and create this vision for the future of grocery online," Wescoe said.

Grocery delivery, which previously was a convenience for busy families, is now seen as a necessity for anyone concerned about contracting COVID-19. 

Some have likely changed their habits permanently and will shop for groceries using as little human contact as possible. Others have discovered the convenience of online ordering and delivery or pickup and will stick with it. 

Follow USA TODAY reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko