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This paper examines adoption of online grocery shopping, and potential cost and time savings compared to brick and mortar food retailers, by New York City public housing residents using Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. A mixed methods action research project involving the co-creation of an online shopping club, the Farragut Food Club (FFC), recruited 300 members who registered to shop online using SNAP, and received waivers on delivery minimums and provided technical assistance and centralized food delivery. We conducted a survey (n = 206) and focus groups to understand shopping practices; FFC members collected receipts of groceries over two weeks before and after the pilot to measure foods purchased, stores patronized, and prices. We interviewed FFC members to elicit experiences with the pilot, and estimated cost differences between products purchased in brick and mortar stores and equivalent products online, and transportation time and cost differences. Online shopping represented a small (2.4%) percentage of grocery spending. Unit prices for products purchased on Amazon ($0.28) were significantly higher than for equivalent products purchased in brick and mortar stores ($0.23) (p < 0.001.) Compatibility with existing routines, low relative advantage, and cost of online products limited the adoption of online shopping among SNAP users.


This work was originally published in Sustainability, available at doi:10.3390/su12114694.

This article is distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution(CC BY) license (



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