SNAP Users on Cape Cod Struggle to Make Grocery Payments

(FALMOUTH) – Throughout the pandemic many families have made the switch to having their groceries delivered, especially if they are at a higher risk for complications from COVID-19.

Yet for Cape & Islands residents who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to pay for food amidst a time of financial hardship for many, the message has been loud and clear: if you live over the bridge, you won’t be eligible for safe shopping using your benefits.

“My elderly friends cannot even use it for food pick-up only offered by Stop and Shop in Falmouth. The elderly poor or moderate income are using credit cards if they want home delivery service,” says Falmouth resident C. Santos, who has witnessed firsthand the struggle those that rely upon food assistance face.

“Most do not have transportation and are afraid to use the bus that drives along the Cape all day. They are too fragile to carry many bags, and with the virus afraid of the health factors.”

For those unable to pay out of pocket, going in person or going without have been the only options. While early shopping times have offered some relief for food assistance recipients that do have access to transportation.

Santos says for the immunocompromised it can still be a risky experience heightened by this year’s influx of full-time residents. “With the surge in year-round visitors or those working from home that have decided to shelter here in Falmouth, it has put a big burden on locals. The crowds are here year-round now, (so there is) no safe time to shop.”

Though grocery delivery is available using SNAP for Hyannis residents through Whole Foods/Amazon, other major retailers on Cape Cod seem not to have caught up to the trend of including food assistance as a verified payment method.

After a review of delivery services offered locally by Walmart, Instacart, Shaw’s and Peapod, it was learned that once SNAP/EBT recipients get to the checkout screen in each of these apps they find there is no place to pay using their designated food funds.

The second nearest contactless grocery experience available for SNAP/EBT recipients that do not live specifically in Hyannis is through Walmart in Wareham for pickup only.

“I have an autoimmune disease and am a cancer survivor, and I can no longer drive, so I am very supportive of food delivery,” says one former Martha’s Vineyard resident who wished to remain anonymous. Since moving off-island, she says her eyes have opened to the wide range of food delivery services available in Massachusetts for those who rely on food assistance.

“Not only do people throughout the state have Amazon and Walmart to order from (with free delivery over a certain modest amount), but there’s also a fantastic service called Mass Food Delivery which came about due to Covid.

They do not deliver to the Cape and Islands but perhaps this will inspire some local food businesses and farms to provide a similar service here.” On Martha’s Vineyard, a representative from Vineyard Grocer confirmed earlier this week that they were previously able to process SNAP orders, “but not for now because their credit card machine that would process it is broken.”

While some SNAP users interviewed said they’d be willing to pay the delivery fee out-of-pocket, one year after the pandemic the Cape & Islands SNAP users are still waiting to be included.

“This is something Stop & Shop is actively working on- and that we hope to have available for our customers in the coming months,” says Jennifer Brogan, Director of External Communications and Community Relations at Stop & Shop.

A spokesperson for Amazon said there is a selection of products available on through Amazon Grocery that do ship to that area and are eligible for SNAP/EBT.

Despite having hope that the payment method option will be added soon, Falmouth resident Judy Rys says it’s a weekly battle many are still fighting. “Elderly people and people with disabilities are often on SNAP, and can’t get out to get them themselves.  I can see paying the delivery fee but should absolutely be able to have delivery.”

By Emmalyn Reid, Cape Wide News
737 West Main Street
Hyannis, MA 02601
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