Food hubs connect local farms and producers with community members to ensure that people have access to high-quality local food.
Forage, a payments processor that makes it easier for grocers to accept EBT (SNAP and cash) payments online, has helped Essex, N.Y.-based The Hub on the Hill become the first community food hub in the United States to accept SNAP EBT payments online.
Food hubs connect local farms and producers with community members to ensure that people have access to high-quality local food. The cost is often subsidized by local nonprofits. The Hub on the Hill covers more than 2,100 miles each week, delivering farm-fresh local food to the doorsteps of individuals, retailers and institutions, including schools, from the Canadian border to New York City.
“The Hub is very focused on increasing food access and building a regional food system in northern New York, and already has an active e-commerce presence,” noted Jori Wekin, co-founder of The Hub on the Hill. “We wanted to extend that to our customers receiving SNAP EBT benefits. Navigating the USDA approval process to accept EBT online would have been difficult without the help of Forage, which guided us through preparation and testing. The Hub’s ability to accept SNAP EBT online will make an enormous difference for the thousands of customers we serve, many of whom rely on government programs to purchase food.”
“Forage’s mission is to increase access to food by enabling consumers to use their government benefits online, and our work with The Hub on the Hill is a testament to that mission,” said Ofek Lavian, co-founder and CEO of San Francisco-based Forage. “We’re proud to be partnering with the first food hub in the nation to accept EBT payments online, giving food-insecure New Yorkers the ability to get high-quality, affordable and locally grown food delivered directly to their doorstep.”
One in eight Americans receives government assistance to buy groceries, and many SNAP recipients are homebound, lack transportation or live in food deserts. While more than 250,000 brick-and-mortar locations accept SNAP benefits via EBT in-store, only a tiny number have been approved for online EBT, and even fewer of those are small stores or focused on providing local foods.
Forage collaborated closely with several partners on the project: e-commerce and marketing platform Grocerist and nonprofit organization AdkAction provided technology and e-commerce support, with funding support from New York Health Foundation.
“Rural grocery stores are struggling to stay afloat; the Adirondack region alone has permanently lost over a dozen brick-and mortar grocers in the past decade,” said Sawyer Cresap at Keeseville, N.Y.-based AdkAction, whose members and volunteers helped make this project a reality. “Online ordering and home delivery are promising solutions for rural food access, but only if underserved residents have access to pay with SNAP online. We’ve been proud to help The Hub build capacity to deliver farm-fresh groceries to the homes of thousands of Adirondack residents living in food deserts. AdkAction is looking forward to continuing our work in supporting the program.”
“New York is one of the first states to see expansion of the SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot beyond chain stores,” noted David Sandman, Ph.D., president and CEO of New York-based New York Health Foundation. “Food-insecure and homebound New Yorkers now have access to an easier, more dignified path to purchase healthy and affordable food.”