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Online Grocery Shopping as a Mediating Intervention in the Administration of SNAP Benefits: A Pilot Study

Research and Methods

The research question for this pilot study centers on documenting participants’ experiences with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly the Food Stamp Program). Through a qualitative study, we expect to find that the expansion of the SNAP pilot to online platforms lacked adequate guidance and support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to enable participants, grocers, and state administrators sufficient support for success. The failure of this expansion could hamper the ability of USDA to use online SNAP purchases as a method to expand uptake and use of SNAP. Further, this failure questions the role of technology in facilitating social support programs.


This pilot proposal is part of a larger grant effort. In 2021, Wilson led a proposal for the National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) of USDA. The specific program area is the Social and Economic Implications of Emerging Technologies of the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). This program supports interdisciplinary research of technologies affecting the food and agricultural sectors.

Project Goals:

The goals of this pilot project are to:

  1. Document the challenges of the online SNAP pilot rollout for SNAP recipients, state administrators, and retailers;
  2. Generate preliminary data, identify gaps or challenges in the research protocol, and refine our proposal for resubmission of the USDA-AFRI proposal in November 2022; and
  3. Establish a documented collaboration between Wilson and Barnes to support their grant application.



  • Carolyn Barnes, Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University
  • Norbert Wilson, Duke World Food Policy