Equity-Promoting Strategies in Online Grocery Shopping: Recommendations Provided by Households of Low Income

Shahmir H. Ali, Joy Lloyd-Montgomery, Caitlin M. Lowery, Gabriela M. Vedovato, Angela C.B. Trude

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To explore barriers and facilitators of online grocery shopping and identify community-driven strategies to promote equity in online food access. Design: This qualitative study used a purposive recruitment strategy to conduct 11 focus groups and 5 in-depth interviews between November 2020 and March 2021. Setting: Data collection was conducted virtually with participants residing in diverse (majority urban) regions of Maryland. Paricipants: 44 primary household food purchasers with young children (aged < 8 years) eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Phenomenon of Interest: Barriers and facilitators of online grocery shopping and strategies elicited by the community to leverage SNAP and online food retailer services to reduce inequities in healthy food access. Analysis: We coded and analyzed transcripts on the basis of the Socioecological Model, Theory of Planned Behavior, and an Equity-Oriented Framework. Results: Overall, we identified 10 themes across all socioecological levels, all of which reflected both barriers and facilitators to online shopping: (1) individual: trust of shoppers, technology, (2) interpersonal: spousal/children needs, (3) community: safety and security, (4) organizational: retail experience and food quality, and (5) policy: SNAP and structural inequities. Participant recommendations included improving food access and communication with hired shoppers, implementing more payment/cost-saving options, and offering educational programming for SNAP participants on using benefits online. Conclusions and Implications: Households of low-income identified barriers and facilitators of online grocery shopping across the socioecological levels, emphasizing the need for a multilevel approach to equity promotion. We recommend future work to explore the suggested actionable pathways, which involve delivery providers, grocery stores, nutrition educators, and policymakers leveraging online grocery features (ie, meal planning support) and policies (ie, expansion of the SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot to more retailers) to reducing deterrents (ie, delivery fees waived) for an equity-promoting online grocery environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)998-1010
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Nutrition Education and Behavior
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2022


  • SNAP
  • food insecurity
  • health disparities
  • low income
  • online grocery shopping

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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