ESSEX, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The Hub on the Hill operates in rural Essex County, providing food resources to communities in need across a swath of New York that extends far past the Adirondacks. This week, it was announced that the organization will be expanding how it takes payment from the people who need that food the most – and will be the first in the country to do so in new ways.

This week, California-based startup Forage announced that it is working with Hub on the Hill to allow customers to make their SNAP EBT food stamp payments online – making the Adirondack hub the first in the country to do so. Approximately one in eight Americans rely on food stamp assistance.

For the hub itself, the move is part of a larger effort to keep increasing where food reaches in New York. The organization already operates a healthy e-commerce wing – but, until now, those using SNAP couldn’t utilize it.

“We wanted to extend that to our customers receiving SNAP EBT benefits,” said Hub on the Hill co-founder Jori Welkin. “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.”

Currently, SNAP EBT payments are accepted at more than 250,000 brick-and-mortar locations across the state. In many cases, individuals utilizing SNAP live in areas that are considered food deserts, are homebound, or lack adequate transportation services. The aim of both organizations is to make grocery delivery a possibility through the hub for those who could use it most.

Forage employs experts with skills and experience from Amazon, Insatcart and Freshop. The organization is working with individual grocers across the country to expand EBT payments accepted online. Currently, New York is on a short list of states that accept food stamps digitally at all.

“New York is one of the first states to see the 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.” 

The Hub on the Hill has a reach that covers over 2,100 miles. Each week, deliveries travel as far as New York City and the Canadian border. Everything distributed by the hub is local to New York.