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Why One Company Is Petitioning the USDA to Let People Use Food Stamps Online

Think of everything you can do online these days: you can get coached by a virtual personal trainer, meet your soulmate, talk to a doctor in seconds (no waiting room required!), and buy pretty much anything under the sun, from a sushi-shaped iPhone cases to your favorite foods. However, if you're one of the 46.5 million Americans on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), otherwise knows as food stamps, you can't use them to buy food online.

You might be thinking: so what? But this is a bigger deal than most people realize. In many low-income areas, "food deserts" exist. They're defined as "parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas.... largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers' markets, and healthy food providers," according to the American Nutrition Association. And food deserts are a real problem. A whopping 23.5 million people in the United States live in low-income areas and are more than one mile from a super market or grocery store, according to the USDA.

That's why Thrive Market, a membership-based online marketplace for fresh, healthy, organic food, is petitioning the USDA to allow food stamp use online. The company was founded in 2014 by Gunnar Lovelace, who grew up in a food-unstable household and decided that nutritious food and sustainable items shouldn't be a privilege, they should be a right. So for every membership they sell, Thrive donates a membership to a low-income American family.

Obviously, Thrive can't single-handedly provide healthy food to all 23.5 million Americans in food deserts—but if these low-income families can use their food stamps to buy from Thrive, they might be able to live healthier lives.

Want to get involved? Sign the petition. And to learn more about food deserts, check out the infographic from Thrive below.

Thrive Foodstamps

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