- Hunger relief organization Feeding America announced on Tuesday the launch of its online grocery ordering system.
- The OrderAhead system allows people facing food insecurity to place orders for pickup and, in some places, home delivery from Feeding America’s food banks and partners.
- Feeding America plans to roll out the system, which it started piloting a few years ago, to more food banks in the months ahead.
With a network of more than 200 food banks, Feeding America is looking to lower barriers to food access as the organization estimates 42 million people in the U.S. may face food insecurity this year.
Feeding America started piloting grocery e-commerce in October 2020, and since then 11 food banks and 18 distribution sites have reached nearly 15,000 people through more than 9,000 orders, according to its announcement. Feeding America aims to add 20 more food banks to the OrderAhead program over the next year.
The organization says the new system provides privacy and convenience for people seeking food assistance. Instead of picking up their groceries from the food bank, people can pick convenient local sites like schools, drive-thru spots and libraries.
The pandemic deepened food insecurity in America as millions lost their jobs during the health crisis. Between 2019 and 2020, Feeding America estimates the number of people in the U.S. facing food insecurity grew from 35 million in 2019 to 45 million in 2020.
"Oftentimes, transportation, stigma, and time are reported as barriers that prevent individuals from seeking help," the organization noted in Tuesday's announcement.
Where states allow, grocers and e-commerce providers have been expanding the availability of online payments for people receiving SNAP benefits.
Companies have also rolled out initiatives aimed at providing resources and making online shopping easier for consumers. Wright's Market in Alabama — one of the first independent grocers to accept SNAP payments online — is working with Auburn University on an upcoming project to help food-insecure seniors order groceries online. Earlier this month, Google launched a dedicated website that helps consumers find the nearest food bank, food pantry or school lunch program pickup site.