BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Maryland is one of seven states that have been chosen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to take part in a pilot program that will allow Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants to purchase their groceries online.

The program was announced Monday by Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen.

Three Maryland retailers – Amazon, Safeway and ShopRite – will participate in the two-year pilot program, which is slated to begin this summer.

“SNAP is our nation’s first line of defense against hunger for millions of low-income families and their children,” Cardin said.

“I’m proud that Maryland will be participating in this pilot program, designed specifically to increase access to food and make the core SNAP program more effective and efficient. Low-income families often cannot afford the transportation to get them to and from the grocery store. This online purchasing option is a smart, cutting-edge solution that will come as tremendous relief for thousands of struggling families living in food deserts.”

“The SNAP program is integral in helping families afford nutritious food every month, and I’m excited to announce this new partnership. Many SNAP recipients live in communities that the USDA defines as ‘food deserts,’ where they cannot access fresh vegetables and fruit. This pilot program will expand access for Marylanders in rural and urban communities and help keep families healthy,” Van Hollen added.

The other states chosen to participate are New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Washington and Oregon. As with the broader program, SNAP participants seeking to purchase groceries online will only be able to use their benefits to buy eligible items – not to pay for service or delivery charges. The USDA plans to expand the program nationwide once it is confirmed the online purchasing system functions as planned.

Every month, SNAP serves more than 781,000 low-income Marylanders. Nearly half of all participants are children.

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