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State looking into lack of no-contact options for Hoosiers receiving assistance to buy groceries

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UPDATE (April 17, 2020) — Beginning on Tuesday, April 21, Kroger stores across Indiana will accept SNAP payments for curbside pickup. Recipients can order online or via the company’s app and pay with EBT cards at the time of pickup. A Kroger spokesperson said it is also waiving pickup fees and adding associates to keep up with increased demand.

Original story:

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Around a quarter of a million households across Indiana receive help paying for groceries, but in order to use their benefits they must go to the store in person.

As the state remains under a Stay at Home order, vulnerable populations remain at risk for COVID-19, but access to no-contact services can be difficult.

CBS4 found no grocery delivery options that accept EBT cards from SNAP recipients and found that Walmart, which is experiencing extremely high demand, offers the only option for curbside pickup.

Nearly 30,000 Hoosiers applied for SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, in the month of March. Beginning in April, the state will give every SNAP recipient statewide the maximum amount of benefits due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The pace has picked up dramatically,” said Richard Gordon, SNAP Outreach Coordinator at Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana.

Gordon and his team help people fill out applications for SNAP, as well as distribute information about the program and how it can help in times of crisis.

“We get all sorts of questions. A lot of it revolves around the eligibility question, ‘Am I at the right income level?’ Maybe it has to do with their particular family dynamic,” Gordon said.

The CBS4 Problem Solvers team heard from multiple SNAP recipients who expressed concern that they were homebound or in a vulnerable population, but could not use their money for groceries without physically going to the store.

State leaders confirmed that they are exploring options for SNAP benefits to be accepted online for delivery or pickup. The USDA, which administers the program nationwide, has established pilot programs in other states, but those have been slow to roll out. It’s unclear how long it could take Indiana to establish feasible options for participants.

The Polis Center at IUPUI, which established a coronavirus data hub to help organizations target populations that are more vulnerable to COVID-19, recently added a map that includes emergency food access sites that have been established across Indianapolis.

“I’ve noticed community centers are pushing out this information as they’re trying to educate their residents on what resources are available in the community near them,” Associate Director Sharon Kandris said.

“A lot of the lower income communities rely on public transportation, so the farther they have to travel, the more exposure they’re going to get,” data analyst Unai Miguel Andres said.

In the meantime, the state did point to a form that SNAP recipients can fill out to allow a trusted person to manage their benefits. You can find that form at the link here.

For questions and help applying for SNAP, call Gleaners at 317-644-1280.

You can also find more information about SNAP at the link here.

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