Initiative Could Lead To Food Stamp Policy Change
BRONX, NEW YORK, May 18 – FreshDirect announced that it is now accepting delivery orders from every zip code in the Bronx, expanding access to fresh, healthy groceries. Actualdeliveries to the new zip codes will start being made on May 21.
As part of FreshDirect’s service expansion, the company will promote a Bronx grand opening sale with discounts on popular items of up to 50 percent plus new customer discounts of $25 all for Bronx residents – available now at www.freshdirect.com.
Earlier this year, FreshDirect partnered with Governor Cuomo, Mayor Bloomberg, and Borough President Diaz to announce that the leading fresh food Internet grocer will invest $112.6 million to build its new headquarters at Harlem River Yard. The move will create 1,000 new jobs to support our continued growth over time and will retain 2,000 existing jobs. In addition, the actual construction of the new headquarters will create approximately 684 construction jobs.
FreshDirect also said it has secured approval for a novel pilot program that it hopes will result in changing a federal policy that currently keeps food stamp recipients from using their benefits to purchase groceries over the Internet. This pilot program will enable food stamp recipients at a few Bronx locations to purchase groceries from FreshDirect and will enable the company to identify regulatory modifications that may need to be made to the Electronic Benefits Transfer, the system that supports food stamp transactions.
“As we continue to grow and create jobs in New York City, we are thrilled that we are now able to serve the entire Bronx and provide residents there with convenient access to quality, fresh foods,” Jason Ackerman, CEO of FreshDirect said. “This expansion is part of our larger effort to find ways to enable all New Yorkers to lead healthy lifestyles.”
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said, “FreshDirect has already demonstrated a clear commitment to strengthening New York City’s economy through a significant private investment and the creation of nearly 1,000 new jobs. Now, with its plans to expand services to all of the Bronx and advocate for an onlineFood Stamp pilot program, FreshDirect will further benefit the City by improving access to healthy foods.”
“Throughout the relocation process, FreshDirect has been focused on the needs of Bronx residents, so much so that the company signed a comprehensive MOU with my office outlining their commitment to the Bronx on service expansion, accepting food stamps, local hiring and other key concerns,” said Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. “Today’s announcement shows that FreshDirect is ready to live up to those commitments ahead of schedule, years before making the Bronx their official home. I am pleased with FreshDirect’s plans to expand its delivery zones to every corner of the borough. Ultimately, this move will offer residents increased healthy grocery options.”
FreshDirect said details about the food stamp pilot program are still being worked out but that it will enable food stamp recipients at a few Bronx locations to purchase groceries.
USDA Undersecretary Kevin Concannon emphasized the importance of the FreshDirectproject, saying “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients in the Bronx will have greater access to the fresh foods that are so vital to healthy nutrition.”
Currently, those who rely on the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – also known as Food Stamps – are unable to purchase groceries over the Internet from online vendors like FreshDirect. Electronic Benefits Transfer(EBT), the system that allows SNAP recipients to pay for groceries, does not now support Internet transactions. As a result, FreshDirect is currently unable to accept food stamps.
FreshDirect asked the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to approve a pilot program to allow it to serve a test segment of Food Stamp beneficiaries in the Bronx. With USDA’s approval freshly in hand, FreshDirect is now working to implement the pilot program and will detail how it will work in the coming weeks.
To ensure compliance with EBT regulations currently in place, FreshDirect will make several modifications to its business operations for the pilot program. The company will waive all delivery charges for EBT orders as a condition of current EBT purchase restrictions; purchase thousands of dollars worth of offline payment processing machines and pay incremental fees to accept EBT at the point of delivery; and modify its website interface and driver delivery software to ensure electronic reconciliation of individual EBT order accounts – something that is not currently available with mobile EBT processing devices.
USDA approved the pilot program last week. FreshDirect will announce the pilot deployment launch date, delivery locations, and other program details soon.
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