- The Hub on The Hill, a New York-based nonprofit grocer focused on helping consumers overcome food insecurity, has become the first grocer in the U.S. to provide SNAP participants with online access to the Double Up Food Bucks produce-incentive program, officials of the organizations that spearheaded the project said in a joint interview Thursday.
- Grocerist, a Canadian startup that provides e-commerce technology to independent food retailers, and Field & Fork Network, a nonprofit that administers Double Up Food Bucks in New York state, implemented the e-commerce system, which became available to shoppers Wednesday.
- The Hub on The Hill’s move to allow people to use Double Up Food Bucks for delivery or pickup orders follows its receipt in January of USDA approval to accept SNAP payments online.
The collaboration between The Hub on The Hill, Grocerist and Field & Fork Network is intended to pave the way for people who may face challenges in getting to the grocery store in person to take advantage of Double Up Food Bucks despite those obstacles, said Josh McGuire, program director for the Field & Fork Network.
Double Up Food Bucks lets shoppers receive a dollar-for-dollar match when using SNAP benefits to pay for produce and use that money for future fruit and vegetable purchases.
But while Double Up Food Bucks is designed to help SNAP participants maximize the purchasing power of their benefits, The Hub on The Hill, which runs a single store in Essex, New York, has until now faced a key limitation in offering the program to its customers because of the requirement that shoppers visit a store to take advantage of it, McGuire said.
“What's really nice about this Hub on The Hill online approach is it really creates an equal field of play” by extending Double Up Food Bucks to people who face transportation barriers, McGuire said. “So we hope this serves as a model moving forward.”
Grocerist and Field & Fork Network are looking to identify additional grocers in New York to assist in accepting SNAP and Double Up Food Bucks rewards online, according to the organizations.
Double Up Food Bucks is available to SNAP participants in more than 25 states. Almost 759,000 families took advantage of the benefit in 2021, according to a report from the Fair Food Network Program, which oversees the Double Up Food Bucks. Consumers used over $20 million in benefits they earned through Double Up Food Bucks that year, up 85% from the previous year.
About 40,000 people in New York are currently enrolled in the program, McGuire said, adding that participants in Double Up Food Bucks are generally able to earn as much as $20 per day for use on future produce purchases.
The automated online system Grocerist and Field & Fork Network have implemented for The Hub on The Hill works similarly to a traditional rewards program, according to McGuire. Shoppers can earn and redeem Double Up Food Bucks funds at the same time as they use their EBT card to pay for their entire purchase, he said.
Grocerist, which provides retailers with e-commerce capabilities based on technology from Shopify, is looking to grow its business by helping grocers handle SNAP-related purchases online, said Matt Smith, co-founder and chief operating officer of Grocerist.
“What we want to do is be able to offer as many additional programs that grocers can tap into to benefit their communities,” Smith said.
McGuire noted that Field & Fork Network expects to gain a deeper understanding of how people use Double Up Food Bucks by analyzing statistics collected online. “The ability to look more granularly at these spending habits and at this data is actually a really great window of opportunity for us to see what we're impacting specifically on the ground and how that's all operating from within,” he said.
Field & Fork Network depends on philanthropic contributions and federal grants to cover its costs, said Lisa French, co-founder and executive director of the organization. The National Grocers Association Foundation provided technical assistance to help The Hub on the Hill deploy the new online capability, French added.