We sat down with the Thrive Gives team—Claire Schmidt and Marsha Olson—to learn more about the program, the biggest hunger myths, and what you can do to make a difference in the food system. We also got the scoop on their favorite Thrive products, too!
How does the Thrive Gives program work, and who does it help?
Marsha: We built our social mission into the core of the business by using a one-for-one model, sort of like TOMS Shoes. Every paid membership to Thrive Market sponsors a free membership for a student, teacher, veteran, or low-income family. We distribute free memberships through nonprofit partners, and by giving directly to those who apply online.
What do you want people to know about Thrive Gives?
Marsha: We know that while items on the site are highly discounted, some people still can't afford the membership fee. Thrive Gives enables us to make sure the membership fee doesn't keep people from accessing the wholesome food we offer on the site.
Claire: We give grocery stipends to families most in need so they can afford to buy the food on our site. We've given out over $250,000 in stipends so far! We raise money from our members at checkout and are also working to raise funds from foundations and partner organizations. It's so inspiring that people are willing to contribute to make sure that our Gives members can afford to buy healthy food for their families.
Thrive Gives enables us to make sure the membership fee doesn't keep people from accessing the wholesome food we offer on the site.
What are some of the biggest myths about hunger?
Marsha: Two come to mind. The first is that there isn’t enough food to go around. In reality, there’s more than enough! The truth is, many people in the U.S. just have trouble getting access to it. More than 23 million people live in food deserts, and many more Americans might not have access to transportation to get to the store. Some might not have enough money to afford the healthy food their families need.
The second myth is that hunger only happens in other places. Last year, 42.2 million Americans were food insecure. That's almost 14 percent of people who, during any given month, were out of money or out of food, and were forced to skip meals or seek assistance to feed themselves. Even now, one in four college students is food insecure. These are the families we need to reach with additional resources.
Claire: Another big myth is people who are hungry are always underweight. In many cases, people are hungry because they are eating unhealthy food that's much cheaper than more nutritious foods. As a result, they're undernourished but may not physically appear to be "hungry" in the traditional way we think about it. It's important to keep in mind that what matters most is that our bodies get the nutrients we need from our diets, without a lot of excess sugar, trans-fats, and chemicals often found in cheaper foods.
Why is the holiday season such a crucial time to support families in need?
Marsha: The holidays have always been a season of giving. This time of year brings moral reflection and inspires families to give back to their communities. Families who have more than enough are reminded that many families do not, and what better time to come together and make sure we're taking care of each other?
Claire: I think people who are facing challenges in their lives often have a harder time during the holiday season. The days are shorter and darker, and often the weather is unpleasant, which can be hard on people's mental health (and as we know, mental health is related to physical health). It's important to make sure people feel cared for during this time. A small gesture, donation, or a kind word to someone can go far during the holiday season.
A small gesture, donation, or a kind word to someone can go far during the holiday season.
What are your favorite Thrive products?
Claire: The Thrive Market Private Label Tomato Sauce is my absolute favorite! I love to make veggie stir-fry with tomato sauce as the base. It's delicious! I also really like the Eden Black Beans. They're great in vegetarian tacos with sweet potato and peppers, or mixed in with quinoa and veggies with a tahini sauce or hummus for a hearty little bowl.
Marsha: The SeaSnax, definitely. There is something so satisfying about snacking on roasted seaweed instead of chips in the afternoon. Not only do they have a lightly salty, rewarding crunch, but they leave me feeling energized instead of sluggish like chips can. I'm also in love with Bob's Red Mill Rolled Oats. I use them to make healthy cookies to eat in the mornings (with mashed banana, raisins, cinnamon and vanilla), and for overnight oats.
Beyond holiday giving, how can Thrive members help make a difference in the food system?
Marsha: Giving has a ripple effect. Donating a portion of your savings at checkout is a huge way to help families beyond the holiday season. Every penny donated goes directly to another family, so they can afford the healthy items that have been out of reach for them. And of course, easiest of them all, recycle!
Claire: Shop organically as much as possible. Also, try to limit your meat intake and treat it more like a delicacy rather than a part of everyday life (it takes 660 gallons of water to make a hamburger!). And last of all, educate yourself about the realities of the food system. Documentaries like Cowspiracy and Fed Up are really interesting and worth watching!
Help us celebrate everyday acts of kindness this season! Did you volunteer for an organization you care about? Feed a stranger's parking meter? Tell us about it on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, and include the hashtag #ThriveMarket and the URL ThriveMarketCares.org—and we'll donate $5 on your behalf.
Lets Thrive together!
Photo credit: Alicia Cho