Google launches food insecurity site, SNAP benefits search tool

Dive Brief:

  • Google has rolled out a free food support site aimed at tackling food insecurity, according to a company blog post on Tuesday.
  • The Find Food Support site includes a Google Maps locator for finding the nearest food bank, food pantry or school lunch program pickup site. The site includes resources like organizations feeding communities and videos on the impact of food insecurity, along with a SNAP benefits search feature that provides information on national and state eligibility requirements.
  • In the blog, Google said that searches for “food bank near me,” “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP),” “food stamps application” and “school lunch pick up” hit record highs over the past year. 

Dive Insight:

Google’s new food access resources are yet another example of the prominent technology firm plugging its Maps app, search function and other proprietary tools into the fast-evolving food industry.

When developing the new site, Google said it worked with No Kid Hungry, FoodFinder and the USDA to include 90,000 locations of free food support across the U.S., noting that more will be added. 

“Food insecurity impacts people from all walks of life — especially since the start of the pandemic,” Emily Ma, head of Google’s Food for Good initiative, wrote in the blog post, noting that children who previously relied on free school lunch programs as well as Black, Latino, disabled Americans and military families have experienced elevated food insecurity recently.

Find Food Support aims to help people find community-based organizations and services like food banks, food pantries and school lunch pickup sites. In addition to the map and SNAP search features, people can find resources for seniors, families with children and military families, along with a tool that directs people to state benefits sites.

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Retrieved from Google’s Find Food Support on June 29, 2021

 

Additionally, the site looks to provide resources to people who want to help and learn more. In a series of videos on the site, Google spotlighted what five local organizations are doing to tackle food insecurity. There’s also information on how consumers can donate food, time and money. 

Google is also commercializing its technology tools with leading food retailers. This year, it linked up with Target and Albertons to offer weekly discounts through Google Pay. The company is working with Albertsons on online ordering tools through Google Search and Google Maps, and on a predictive list-building tool. Last month, Hy-Vee announced it signed a multi-year deal with Google Cloud for a range of digital services that include integrating the grocer’s virtual dietitian services and helping shoppers schedule vaccine appointments online.

Google’s efforts come at a time when the grocery industry is working to address food insecurity, from turning to technology like pickup lockers to close last-mile gaps to expanding access to using SNAP benefits for online orders. The USDA’s SNAP online pilot has accelerated its approval of grocers under the online program after a slow ramp-up during the pandemic last year.

In announcing the new tools, Google noted Feeding America’s food access estimates. The hunger-relief organization projected earlier this year that 42 million people, including 13 million children, are at risk of experiencing food insecurity in 2021.