Thrive Market, an online organic and mission-driven membership-based marketplace, has petitioned the USDA to allow food stamps (SNAP) to be used for online grocery shopping.
Founders Gunnar Lovelace and Nic Green are scheduled to meet with Debra Eschmeyer, the Obama administration’s senior advisor for nutrition policy, on July 11 and 12 at the White House. They had approached the USDA two years ago about the possibility of food stamps extending to online shopping, and given the slow advancement of the initiative, they decided to launch an online petition to this end in June.
“It’s crazy that in the 21st century you can buy anything online—whether it’s sex, guns or drugs—and you still can’t use food stamps on there,” Lovelace told Quartz. “We want to make sure that they scale this out as fast as possible.”
A USDA spokesperson told Quartz that a new pilot program allowing SNAP to be used online would be rolled out in August and September of 2017.
Lovelace and Green believe that organic food and fair-trade items, such as the ones sold on their site, should not be limited to high-end customers, particularly given the discounted prices that a membership at Thrive Market offers as compared to other health-oriented supermarkets.
“Having grown up poor with a single mom and as a Latino immigrant, I’ve wanted to do something about limited access to healthy foods my whole life,” Lovelace told Forbes.
Thrive announced Monday that the company had raised $111 million from investment firm Invus, which will be used, amongst other things, for the continued development of the site’s new private label line. The line currently contains 60 items including organic dried herbs and spices, organic nuts, and organic virgin coconut oil.
More than 23 million people in the U.S. live in food deserts and do not have easy access to fresh, healthy food. These food deserts have been linked to the obesity epidemic in America by experts including the Trust for America's Health.
“Increasing access to healthy food is an essential step in working to curb the onset of lifestyle diseases that are shouldering our medical system with unsustainable costs,” Lovelace says.
Thrive Market currently has 5 million registered users and 300,000 paid members. Its annual fee is $60 and its food prices run between 25% and 50% below normal retail levels.
Forty-five million people in the U.S. receive food stamps, approximately one in seven Americans.
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Online grocery shopping image via Shutterstock