The Absurd Reason Some People Can't Buy Healthy Groceries Online

August 17th 2016

Thrive Market


Thrive Market

Online grocery shopping has turned into a massive business — 31 percent of Americans have purchased food online in the past six months.

But there's a problem.

People who buy groceries with food stamps can't buy food online. That means the 43.5 million people enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are blocked from online grocery shopping.

What makes this problem even worse is that many Americans enrolled in SNAP are part of the 23 million Americans living in food deserts, areas where people have limited access to healthy food options. These are places without grocery stores, where many people are forced to shop at convenience stores instead. And because 24 percent of people living below the poverty line do not own a car, driving to another neighborhood for groceries isn't an option. 

So, you can see that the use of food stamps online is a pretty big deal, especially considering 74 percent of people living in poverty do have internet access and could buy their groceries online. 

What’s the hold up? While there are security risks that need to be solved, the barriers are mostly “technical, bureaucratic and political logistics” that can be figured out with some attention from policymakers. The benefits of using food stamps online would be huge: It would give one in seven Americans access to healthy food.

There's no doubt the time has come to change this policy, considering that online grocery shopping is inching closer and closer to taking over in-store grocery shopping. Thanks to digital grocers like Thrive Market and services like Instacart, online shopping has become a regular part of American life. So what can be done to expedite this process? Thrive Market is already taking steps to bridge the gap. In addition to giving away free memberships to low-income families and grocery stipends to its lowest income members, the company launched a petition campaign asking the USDA to make food stamps available for online use. 

As Thrive co-founder Gunnar Lovelace told Forbes, “Healthy food should be accessible to all, and we’re simply asking the USDA to make that possible.”

It’s that simple. If you want to join Thrive in helping all Americans gain access to healthy food, sign the petition.