A look back at 2016

At Propel, we strive to make the social safety net more user friendly.

In January 2016, we launched Fresh EBT in Pennsylvania. We excitedly gathered around our Google Analytics dashboard as we saw one, then two, then three people using the app at once to manage their EBT cards. By the end of March, we made Fresh EBT available in all 50 states. Today, we have active users in all 50 states and territories. Reflecting on 2016, we’ve made strong progress in growing Fresh EBT’s user base, shipping features that deepen our relationships with users, and striking partnerships that build Propel’s business by helping our users save money.

By the end of 2016, nearly 400,000 people had downloaded Fresh EBT. The majority discovered the app through word of mouth, and we found that even without prompting, most of our users had referred someone else. Over 170,000 people were using Fresh EBT weekly, showing strong retention and loyalty. And user feedback continues to be extremely positive, raising our rating to 4.5 stars with over 2800 five-star ratings in the Google Play store and making Fresh EBT a fixture near the top of the overall Android finance app rankings.

We believe that Fresh EBT is the foundation of a powerful anti-poverty platform that goes far beyond EBT card services. A microcosm of this growth is the evolution of Fresh EBT’s Map feature, which started as a simple list of grocery stores that accept EBT but has become a powerful discovery tool for nearby resources of many types.

The first of these resources was the location of Summer Meals sites (places where kids under 18 can get free meals during the summer months when school isn’t in session). Most Fresh EBT users have children that qualify for free and reduced-price lunch, making the Summer Meals program a perfect fit. Over the summer, we helped tens of thousands of users find this vital information. We’re excited to make this available again in the summer of 2017 to a user base that is now ten times larger.

In 2016, we also began developing exciting partnerships with a wide variety of organizations that want to serve our users. To help users find the best deals on groceries and save money on food, we piloted our first set of partnerships with grocery stores, marketing their weekly specials and other discounts and savings. We developed relationships with organizations that run nutrition incentive programs that provide matching dollars to SNAP recipients when they spend money on fresh produce. We’re excited to be working with AARP on their Fre$h Savings program in Mississippi and Tennessee, The Food Trust on Philly Food Bucks, and Double Up Heartland on their program in the Kansas City metro area.

We partnered with Leanne Brown, the author of “Good and Cheap”, a cookbook written specifically for a SNAP budget, to bring a new recipes to our users every week. These weekly recipes have been a big hit, with over 65,000 clicks on 15 different recipes. (The best performing recipe thus far: Spicy Tilapia with Lime.)

Last year, we also began working with financial services organizations to help our users access better financial services. Being poor is expensive, and we aimed to help our users find lower-cost, digital-friendly alternatives to predatory financial products. As an example, we’ve partnered with EARN to expand access to their matched savings program, helping our users build up the financial health that will ultimately allow them to leave government assistance.

To cap it all off, Propel was named Brooklyn’s Civic Tech Startup of the Year by Technically Brooklyn and a member of the first class of the Rockefeller Foundation’s Future Cities Accelerator!

2017 promises a new set of challenges and adventures. In a political environment that could bring new threats to America’s social safety net, we believe our work to streamline and dignify programs like SNAP becomes even more important. In this context we feel even more strongly about expanding Fresh EBT to be a platform that empowers users and can help those who have fallen on hard times get back on their feet. We hope you’ll join us on this journey..