Actress Shailene Woodley pushes for online food stamps

Actress Shailene Woodley is helping lawmakers and digital retailers push the Obama administration to allow people to use food stamps online.

Woodley, known for her roles in "The Descendants," "The Fault in Our Stars" and the "Divergent" series, attended a congressional briefing hosted by Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), along with Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), on Tuesday to help make the case.

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Supporters say allowing people to use federal nutrition benefits online could help those in what are called food deserts, where low-income Americans struggle to find healthier foods.

Woodley called the issue personal, saying that many of her extended family members and friends have received benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

“It’s our civil responsibility — it’s our duty — as human beings to offer the right of healthy food,” she said. “When we’re talking healthy food, we’re not even talking organic ... this goes beyond the farm to table issue.”

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), 46 million Americans receive some SNAP benefits and 23 million Americans live in food deserts.

Also at the event was Gunnar Lovelace, co-founder of Thrive Market, a digital marketplace where members can order organic and natural food brands.

“We’re in the 21st century, we all know what you can buy online ... but we can’t use food stamps to buy healthy food for less,” Lovelace said at the briefing.

Thrive Market launched an online petition to the USDA in June that has over 40,000 signatures. But Lovelace said the company has been pushing the issue since late 2014.

Ryan drew attention to the broader issue of helping people get access to healthy foods.

“In the next five years, half of our country’s going to have diabetes or pre-diabetes. Now that’s a recipe for sinking those healthcare systems ... and eating up every dime we have to make investments in roads and bridges, or research and development, or early childhood education,” Ryan said.

“We spend 300 billion dollars a year as a country on diabetes-related illnesses, it’s just one of several major lifestyle diseases ravaging our communities and ravaging the economy,” Lovelace added.

He said officials had shown a willingness to work together, but worried concerns about potential fraud and slow-moving agencies would drag out reforms.

Still, Lovelace was optimistic that the petition would win bipartisan support and help keep pressure on the USDA.

“If we’re going to provide food stamps for people, we need to make sure they can access healthy food so that they don’t cost the medical system more money, and that’s an issue that can bring people together regardless of their ideological or party affiliation,” he said.

 

feeling blessed to have rocked a day out in DC conversing with multiple wonderful politicians and their colleagues about the importance of #SNAP and urging the USDA to enact an initiative that allows food stamps to be used online. this issue stems beyond food. it is about social justice, equality amongst all. where you don't have access to healthy food, you find higher rates of obesity, diabetes, and other diseases. this is the sad truth, and it is irresponsible of us to continue allowing this narrative to unfold. healthy food should NOT be a privilege. healthy food is a RIGHT. and it's our job to hold our government accountable to offer access to healthy food in ALL communities. help our initiative move forward by visiting https://thrivemarket.com/action/Access-Healthy-Food #makethemovementmove #allinthistogether #UpToUs @thrivemkt

A photo posted by Shailene Woodley (@shailenewoodley) on Jul 12, 2016 at 1:43pm PDT