Essex-based Hub On the Hill (the Hub) is now the first food hub in the nation to accept EBT SNAP payments through their online grocery store, thanks to a collaboration including local and national organizations and businesses.
Food hubs connect local farms and producers with community members, to make sure everyone has access to the highest quality local food. The cost is often subsidized by local non-profit organizations. The Hub joins a list of just 30 SNAP Online vendors in New York State, a group almost exclusively composed of large businesses, such as Walmart and Amazon.
“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. “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.”
AdkAction, an organization focused on community development and sustainable environments in the Adirondacks, connected The Hub with payments processor Forage and e-commerce platform Grocerist to accomplish the project, and sponsored the work thanks in part to funding from New York Health Foundation. The non-profit Hunger Free America also provided valuable guidance and assistance.
“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. “Food-insecure and homebound New Yorkers now have access to an easier, more dignified path to purchase healthy and affordable food.”
One in eight Americans receive government assistance to buy groceries. While more than 250,000 brick-and-mortar locations accept SNAP benefits via EBT in-store, only a few have been approved for online EBT and even fewer of those are small food stores, or ones focused on providing local foods. Many SNAP users are homebound, lack transportation, or live in a food desert without easy access to grocery stores; many others want to avoid in-person shopping due to concerns about COVID but have no choice because they are not able to use their SNAP benefits online.
“Rural grocery stores are struggling to stay afloat; the Adirondack region alone has permanently lost over a dozen brick-and mortar grocers in the past decade,” said Sawyer Cresap at AdkAction, whose members and volunteers helped make this project a reality. “Online ordering and home delivery are promising solutions for rural food access, but only if underserved residents have access to pay with SNAP online. We’ve been proud to help the Hub build capacity to deliver farm-fresh groceries to the homes of thousands of Adirondack residents living in food deserts. AdkAction is looking forward to continuing our work in supporting the program.”
“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 Ofek Lavian, Co-founder and CEO of Forage. “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.”
To further expand access to local food, AdkAction documented the SNAP online process navigated by the Hub and is creating a guide from which other food hubs across the nation can learn. AdkAction’s partnership in the SNAP online process and the creation of a SNAP online guide are supported by New York Health Foundation.
Learn more by watching a video created by The Hub on the Hill staff.
About The Hub on the Hill:
The Hub on the Hill works to strengthen local supply chains, expand access to nutritious, local food and create regenerative systems in order to support the land and people that help sustain us all. The Hub covers over 2,100 miles each week delivering farm fresh, local food to the doorsteps of individuals, retailers, and institutions including schools from the Canadian Border to NYC.
AdkAction is a member-supported nonprofit organization whose mission is to create projects that address unmet needs, promote vibrant communities, and preserve the natural beauty of the Adirondacks for all. Learn more at www.AdkAction.org
Forage is a payments processor that makes it easier for grocers to accept SNAP EBT (food stamps) and Cash EBT payments online, giving merchants access to a $200B market and enabling the 42M Americans receiving benefits to spend them online. With its in-house team of payments and EBT experts and software platform, Forage guides merchants through the USDA application process and tech integration for merchants, taking most of the burden off retailers. Forage’s founders created the company to democratize access to government benefits and help underserved Americans more easily use their benefits online. Forage works with multiple grocers and platforms such as Shopify and Flashfood to accept SNAP EBT payments online. For more information visit joinforage.com.
Photo at top: The Hub on the Hill in Essex, NY. Photo provided by AdkAction Communications and Operations Manager, Kristina Hartzell.