Department of Social Services says Food and Nutrition Services participants can buy groceries online

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 29, 2020

SALISBURY — The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services to allow online purchasing flexibility for Food and Nutrition Services participants.

Participants will be able to purchase groceries online through Walmart and Amazon using their electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards. The flexibility is intended to promote social distancing and help families with transportation and mobility barriers.

The online purchasing flexibility will continue after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The announcement was one of multiple in a news release from the Rowan County Department of Social Services.

The news release said North Carolina was also approved for the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer Program, which provides electronic benefits to North Carolina families whose children have access to free and reduced lunches at school. Families will not need to apply for the program. Eligible families already receiving Food and Nutrition Services benefits will receive an additional benefit on their existing EBT card. And eligible families not already enrolled in FNS will be mailed a new EBT card in the next few weeks, according to a news release. Families who receive a new EBT card will receive a letter from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services in the mail explaining how to activate and use their card.

All able-bodied adults without dependents will be exempt from the state’s work requirements for FNS benefits for any months received between April 1 and a month after the COVID-19 public health emergency declaration has been lifted, a news release stated

For Food and Nutrition Services applicants that have “H” or “I” controlled substance felony offenses in North Carolina, requirements to successfully complete an assessment with the local area mental health has not been waived. However, it has been temporarily suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Assessments will be required during their next recertification process. Applicants will still need to meet their six-month minimum disqualification period, a news release said.

Terminations of Work First Cash Assistance cases also are being temporarily suspended starting March 31 through the emergency declaration.

Applicants and beneficiaries can apply for Medicaid and Food and Nutrition Services through the ePASS System. Online applications are available for Food and Nutrition Services (formerly Food Stamps) as well as Medical Assistance (Medicaid and NC Health Choice or CHIP). To apply, visit

In its news release, the Rowan County Department of Social Services said it remains operational during this healthcare crisis.

The following programs are mandated services that must continue:

• Medicaid applications and determinations

• Food and Nutrition Services applications and determinations

• Work First Family Assistance applications and re-certifications

• Adult services, including special assistance, APS and guardianship

• Child support

• Energy programs

• Non-emergency Medicaid transportation

• Children’s services, including CPS, foster care, in-homes services and adoptions

• Subsidized child care

• Refugee assistance