The Australian Government has made it easier for people to shop for food online using food stamp numbers instead of numbers issued by the retailer, as it ramps up the rollout of the digital food bank.
Food and drink retailers have been notified they will receive more than $1 billion of food stamp payments, up from $850 million, through a pilot scheme launched last month.
More than 10 million Australians are currently receiving payments, and a further 10 million have already used the digital feed, which allows consumers to track their purchases.
In its 2017-18 budget, the Government announced it would expand the online food bank program to a total of 12 million people.
“We have been looking at ways to support the most vulnerable in our communities, including foodbanks, so that people have the choice of shopping for their food when they need it,” Food Safety Minister Nigel Scullion said.
“This pilot will give retailers the ability to offer food and drink for people who have been through the worst of times, and who may not be able to afford a regular supermarket delivery.”
The pilot will be rolled out across all retailers, including big box retailers, convenience stores and large supermarkets.
A supermarket in Hobart, Australia, will be the first to offer a food and drinks payment.
The pilot is aimed at helping people who are unable to shop in person, because they have a health condition or do not have access to food.
A representative for the Government said the program would be rolled-out in Australia by mid-2018.
“As the Government works with retailers to provide a more convenient and sustainable food distribution model, the pilot will see them automatically apply for the food stamp number for people they serve in their stores,” the representative said.
The Food Safety and Human Services Commission said the food bank pilot will enable retailers to better serve their customers.
“The pilot means that more people will have the ability access the same food and beverage they have been using for years,” the spokesperson said.
“We are looking forward to the impact this will have on people in our community, and the lives of families.”
“It will enable people to save money, reduce their stress and help them access nutritious food and healthy meals for their families,” the spokeswoman added.
The program was originally designed to help families who cannot afford regular groceries, but now it could be expanded to include people who need it the most.