In a much-anticipated move, today the USDA announced a first-of-its-kind pilot program that will allow recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to use their benefits online. This comes on the heels of a successful Thrive Market petition supporting the initiative, which will give more Americans access to healthy, affordable food.
Since the petition launched in late June, more than 310,000 people have signed it. Support from actors like Kristen Bell and Shailene Woodley, partners like Care2 and Blue Apron, and nonprofits like Organic Consumers Association and Share our Strength helped put the issue on the map. Senator Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., and Tim Ryan, D-Ohio also wrote a joint letter to the USDA earlier this week asking them to take action. This clear policy victory not only helps thousands of low-income individuals around the country access healthy food, but also shows the power of grassroots organizing for change.
The number of Americans who rely on SNAP benefits to buy groceries is staggering: 46.5 million. Another 23.5 million people live in “food deserts”—areas without access to healthy food. Without the ability to use SNAP benefits online, consumers are limited to the options in their neighborhoods, which might only be convenience stores stocked with processed, unhealthy items.
In today's digital age, more people have access to technology than transportation. As much as 74 percent of people living in poverty have internet access, but few have their own cars. The policy simply hadn't caught up with this change in access—until now.
Now, thanks to everyone who supported and signed the online petition, low-income families around the country will have a little easier time putting healthy food on the table.
Photo credit: Paul Delmont