Fresh Food Connections : Using Food Assistance Benefits Online

Do you do your grocery shopping online?

According to Coresight’s “U.S. Online Grocery Survey 2022” report, 54.3% of U.S. adults had purchased groceries online in the past 12 months. This number peaked at 59% in 2021, almost doubling pre-pandemic rates. 

Keep Growing Detroit offers a flexible CSA option for local residents.

Ordering groceries online is convenient and improves access for folks who may have challenges getting to, and navigating, a grocery store. However, there are a few drawbacks to this: 1) shoppers don’t get the satisfaction of picking out the perfectly ripe avocados or grabbing items on a whim and 2) most grocery stores don’t allow users to pre-order online using their food assistance benefits, like SNAP.  

SNAP, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, is the largest, most widely used food assistance benefit program. Funds are provided to users via an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card (often called the Bridge Card in Michigan) that can be used like a Debit card at many grocery stores and farmers markets. These benefits can be used online at large retailers, like Walmart, Meijer, Amazon, and Aldi, but typically not at smaller businesses in Michigan. 

“While SNAP online processing isn’t available for farms and farmers markets yet, it’s coming,” Kelly Wilson, Former Director of Community Partners for Taste the Local Difference, says. “As we wait for federal approval, Fresh Food Connections is leveling the playing field by supporting farmers and farmers markets with the technology they need to accept SNAP online or develop other food access programs.”

The Fresh Food Connections program seeks to increase fresh food access by connecting SNAP eligible communities to farms and farmers markets offering online ordering. Through collaboration with the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services (MDHHS), Taste the Local Difference is supporting the foundation of online SNAP sales at Michigan farms and farmers markets. This program began in 2021 with 6 participating locations in Washtenaw and Wayne Counties. Each location was provided technical support to implement strategies to offer flexible payment options or to accept SNAP online for their business. Sites adapted their offerings to meet the needs of their customers.  

The Ypsi Area Online Farmers Market allows shoppers to place an order online and pick up items at an assigned location. Buyers can pay online with credit or use their food assistance benefits up on pick up.

“Supporting food assistance programs has always been a core value of our farmers markets,” Dayna Popkey, Program Director at Growing Hope and Ypsilanti Farmers Market Manager.  “When we started the Ypsi Area Online Market in 2020, making sure customers using SNAP/EBT were able to access the online platform was a top priority. Fresh Food Connections has provided funding and resources that make it easier for us to reach customers using food assistance and provide them with convenient access to fresh, local foods. “

In 2022, the program added sites in the Lansing Area and the Western Upper Peninsula. The new locations received marketing support from the TLD team and support on providing accessible payment options for their online stores or CSAs. 

“It is our hope that the program will continue to grow and expand to across the state beginning with communities that have high food insecurity,” Janee Moore, MDHHS Food Access Public Health Consultant, says. “Fresh Food Connection strives to create a better food system by supporting farmers and communities to provide local, affordable fresh food.”

Participating Sites:



Western UP:

Lansing Area: 

  • Hillcrest Farm – Coming soon!
  • Hot Pepper Karenni Farm – Coming soon!
  • Magnolia Farm – Coming soon!
  • Open Air Market of Stockbridge – Coming soon!

Check out all participating sites in Michigan at 

Emma Beauchamp is the Editor in Chief of Taste the Local Difference.

Further Reading: