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Target to accept food stamps for online food purchases

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Retail giant Target will let shoppers pay for online orders of food using SNAP benefits starting later this year, joining competitors Amazon and Walmart.

Target customers will receive their food orders through the company's delivery service arm Shipt, and the option to pay with food stamps  will likely begin in late April, the company told Reuters. Customers will be able to use their electronic benefits transfer, or EBT, card at checkout  the same way they would use a debit or credit card.

"That's why the digital SNAP payment option we're rolling out this year is so important to food and beverage," Target's chief food and beverage officer, Rick Gomez, said earlier this month during an earnings call. "It's going to make our entire experience, in-store and online, accessible to all families, allowing them to shop on their terms, regardless of how they pay for their groceries."

Target officials said earlier this month that revenue from food and beverage sales is growing quickly as more shoppers order groceries online. Food and beverage purchases generated $20.3 billion in revenue for Target in 2021, up from $15 billion in 2019. The percentage of customers placing food orders online rose to more than 13.% in 2021, up from just over 2% in 2019.

Some Target locations already accept EBT payments in-store. Walmart began offering SNAP payments for online orders in June 2019. Amazon followed suit a year later. 

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Customers who use a credit or debit card pay a $7 delivery fee for Shipt. It's unclear if SNAP customers will be charged the same fee. Target didn't respond to a request for comment Thursday. 

The Biden administration increased food stamp benefits by 25% last October for the 42 million Americans who use the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, marking the largest single increase in the program's history. Each person on average saw their benefits rise by $36, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A family of four now qualifies for food stamps worth $835 per month, according to the USDA. 

The food stamp program, which had been the target of cuts and restrictions by the Trump administration, is considered among the most effective anti-poverty programs. It's particularly important for children, given the ample research that shows a link between food and performance in school.

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