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Helping People Find Places That Accept foodstamps


  • Status:

    (as of 05.16.2011):


  • Beta Testing, User Testing
Tags: , , , , is a free sms-based app that helps food stamp recipients find healthy places that accept SNAP (food stamps). Most recipients have money in their accounts, but many are embarrassed to go to farmers markets and nice stores and ask if they accept SNAP. With unemployment at all time highs, many people on food stamps feel ashamed of receiving benefits, but that does not mean they should need to buy unhealthful foods.

This population is both unbanked (can’t spend their money) and deprived of healthful foods (don’t know where to buy healthful foods, and might be embarrassed to go to nice stores and ask if they accept food stamps).

At it’s core, the application allows a user to send in their address, zip code and/or cross streets and replies with a short list of the five closest stores that accept SNAP food assistance cards. The interface also lets users know what sort of retailer it is (farmers’ market, grocery store, supermarket, etc), so they can make informed options.

And it would be even more accessible if we allowed users to call in or had service in other languages. That workflow would require us to transcribe their messages into text using speech-to-text services, use that text to perform a search, and then read the resulting addresses back to the user on the phone via text-to-speech. We have not built this sort of interface yet.  Thanks to the exposure from winning the local competition in San Francisco, Vakil Kunar and Jay Nath from the city of San Francisco have reached out to our team and offered to help connect us with people at the state and federal levels to publicize the app. They have also offered us a server so we could accept more traffic.  Updates here.

Video: Video of our presentation on May 7th, 2011 Since then, we’ve optimized the interface and uploaded data for the entire country.

Our team:

Aaron Bannert -  Coder, Database optimizer, Systems administrator. Has an open source consulting company called Codemass.
Jeremy Canfield – Coder, Graphic Designer, Hand Model. Works at Code for America.
Michelle Koeth – Coder, Data getter, Jingle maker. Also works at Code for America.
Ysiad Ferreiras – Coder, Administrator. Has a technology consulting company called Aardvarkium.

We all met at the Applications for Good coding event in San Francisco. Except for Jeremy and Michelle, who already knew each other from working at the same office.

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  1. julange says:

    Awesome idea. This is sure to be super beneficial for tons of folks.

  2. This is a great idea! People with food stamps need a way of knowing where they can reedeem them when they are on the go or transistioning from one location to another.

  3. Snap Fresh is on the move. Within the next couple weeks, they will be beta testing a pilot with the city of San Francisco, with support from A4G and AT&T. Extended features and higher ratings for healthy foods are in the works. They will be testing with a local 415 number and will have the web app available in chinese and spanish as well as english. Let’s see what happens!!

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