This week Sioux Falls Hy-Vee stores have extended closing times to 10 p.m. so the general public can head to the store between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. every day of the week.
Hy-Vee is also adding another option to help protect high-risk individuals during this pandemic. In addition to their special in-store shopping hour from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m., the Aisles Online program will also be reserved for high-risk individuals during that hour.
The store is also partnering with Door Dash to help offer free delivery to up to 20,000 high risk individuals. While its an incredibly valuable service, delivery isn’t an option for some of the state’s most vulnerable population.
“The grocery shopping issues have always been harder when someone is on EBT,” Workers on Wheels Program Director Val Lietz said.
Many people with disabilities rely on South Dakota’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to help purchase groceries each week. Right now, many people in the program are trying to stay home and avoid public places as much as possible, but its not an option when paying for groceries with SNAP.
“The hardest thing right now is the SNAP benefits, because you have to be the one with the card and the one doing that shopping,” Lietz said.
Workers on Wheels volunteers help many people around the community get their groceries each week.
“They might take them to the grocery store and help take groceries in or they can take them to the grocery store and they do all of the shopping and help carry the groceries in. Or the far extreme is, here’s the list, here’s the money, go do my shopping for me and I’ll see you when you’re done,” Lietz said.
It’s a similar concept to online grocery services or deliveries that can often be difficult for seniors or people with disabilities to navigate.
“It’s great, but most of those programs are geared toward computers or phone calls and most of my clients are of an age where they don’t have the computers, technology or phones to be able to do what they need to do. Or they aren’t comfortable handing out their credit card numbers even over the phone to people,” Lietz said.
That’s why Workers on Wheels volunteers provide another option for high risk individuals to stay at home while volunteers take care of the grocery shopping. Lietz hopes there may soon be an option to offer the same service to high risk people on the SNAP program.
“I think its something that the state or the feds, whoever has to figure out how we’re going to help them pay with their SNAP benefits from home,” Lietz said.
Laurie Gill, South Dakota’s Department of Social Services cabinet secretary, says right now the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service does not allow online purchases with EBT cards but is currently studying this through pilot projects in hopes it may be available in the future.
Gill says the South Dakota SNAP program does have existing provisions in place that allow disabled individuals to authorize another person to use their EBT card if they themselves are unable to do their household’s shopping; this is known as an authorized representative.
“SNAP recipients can also appoint an emergency authorized representative if the need is more immediate. In either case, the authorized representative is able to use the EBT card the same way as if it were the individual using the EBT card,” Gill said.,
Gill encourages families in search of assistance to call their local Department of Social Services office or visit their website to view all of the available resources, as well as apply for assistance. DSS staff are working remotely to process applications.