The year-plus COVID-19 pandemic has made a lot of changes in the world and one of those changes is that users of the state’s Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) program – once known as the “food stamp” program – now have greatly expanded options as to how they can use those benefits.

Over the past year, the state has added numerous online shopping options so that program participants can stay safe when purchasing food.  Before the pandemic, using the service usually meant going to a store to shop and pay. However, the state has added numerous online shopping options and, this week, Publix Super Markets was added to the list where NC Food and Nutrition Services participants can use their Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards.

A Tuesday, April 13 press release from the North  Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) stated, “This flexibility will allow participants to buy food while promoting social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and will help families with transportation and mobility barriers.”

The service went live on Tuesday, so users can start shopping online at the popular supermarket chain right away.

Publix is the seventh North Carolina EBT retailer — along with ALDI, Amazon, BJ’s, Carlie C’s, Food Lion and Walmart — to be approved for online purchases.  In May of last year, North Carolina was one of the earliest states to offer online shopping for FNS users.

“While program participants will be able to use their benefits to purchase eligible food items from online retailers, they still won’t be able to use their benefits to pay for service or delivery charges,” the press release states.  “They’ll have to pay for these charges with another form of payment like a debit or credit card.”