On June 27, Thrive Market launched a petition asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture to let food stamp recipients use their benefits to pay for online food purchases. Within three weeks, more than 90,000 people signed and, as of the publishing of this story, the online, membership-based natural and organic foods retailer has garnered more than 132,000 signatures.
This is not the first social justice endeavor for Thrive Market. For every membership sold, the retailer provides a free membership to a low-income family in need through a program called Thrive Gives. Though founder and co-CEO Gunnar Lovelace says that thousands of families have been provided this free membership, those who rely on food assistance cannot use their benefits to pay for food at Thrive Market—or anywhere else online.
“This campaign to bring food stamps online grew out of these families’ desire to have access to all 21st century retail channels,” Lovelace says, adding that low-income families are disproportionately affected by limited access to healthy food in their local communities. “This is very important to me, personally, having grown up very poor with a single mom as a Latino immigrant, and I’ve wanted to do something about limited access to healthy food my whole life.”
As it turns out, this campaign is also very important to a number of influencers, bloggers, health brands and politicians who have since lent their voices in support of the initiative.
On July 12, Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio sponsored a congressional briefing with support from Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Congressman Ted Lieu, both of California. Joined by actress Shailene Woodley (pictured above) and others, Lovelace discussed the importance of expanding access to healthy food for those living in food deserts and other limited-access areas.
“The briefing was packed with over 100 senior legislative directors, staffers and press,” Lovelace says. “This petition resonates with celebrities and others simply because it makes sense. Regardless of one’s view on whether the food stamp program should exist, if we’re going to spend money feeding people, we should ensure they have access to healthy food.”
Ultimately, Lovelace plans to deliver the petition to the USDA to demonstrate the public support for a change in the current food stamp policy, and work with the USDA to find a solution.
To learn more about the campaign, visit thriveaction.org.