New York-based food hub The Hub on the Hill has become the country's first community food hub to accept SNAP EBT payments online, according to an announcement Monday.
The development is made possible with the help of Forage, a payments processor that makes it easier for grocers to accept SNAP online, the group said in a news release.
The Hub on the Hill sells direct to consumers through a retail market, providing discounted food for low- and middle-income customers. The on-site market provides local food in a town with no grocery store, and also serves as a gathering spot and event space for the community, according to the organization’s website. The Hub’s online marketplace offers dairy and meat products, fruits and vegetables, beverages, and other items.
“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. We wanted to extend that to our customers receiving SNAP EBT benefits,” said Jori Wekin, co-founder of the Hub on the Hill, in a statement. “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.”
One in eight Americans receives government assistance to buy groceries, according to the release. There are more than 250,000 brick-and-mortar locations that accept SNAP benefits via EBT in-store. But many SNAP recipients may live in food deserts, be homebound, or don’t have transportation to get to a grocery store, and only a fraction of those locations have been approved for online EBT. Being able to order groceries online is crucial for many people.
“New York is one of the first states to see expansion of the SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot beyond chain stores,” said David Sandman, Ph.D., president and CEO of New York Health Foundation, in a statement. “Food-insecure and homebound New Yorkers now have access to an easier, more-dignified path to purchase healthy and affordable food.”
Food hubs connect local farms and producers with community members, to expand access to local food. The Hub works to strengthen local supply chains and increase the availability of local food, the release said. Each week, the Hub delivers local food to individuals, retailers and schools from the Canadian border to New York City. The Hub also supplies wholesale accounts for retail, restaurants and institutions.
“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,” said Ofek Lavian, co-founder and CEO of Forage.
Forage has an in-house team of EBT and payments experts, according to the release, and the company has been working with grocers to also help them to accelerate their path to accepting EBT online.
“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 Lavian.
In August, Forage completed a $22 million Series A funding round, noting that the money would be used to expand SNAP EBT access around the country.