When I first moved to Los Angeles, I noticed something weird.  Okay, okay, I noticed a lot of weird things (Venice Beach boardwalk, anyone?). But what stuck out most to me was the huge food discrepancy in the city.

Los Angeles is famous for its over-the-top, fad-ridden health consciousness (which sometimes actually turns out to be not so healthy). In the land of beautiful people, where models and actors are constantly ‘gramming pictures of their most recent juice cleanse or favorite new vegan lunch spot, I thought going to school in downtown LA would mean unprecedented access to all the health food I (or my wallet) could handle. And as someone who gets irrationally excited about superfoods and smoothie bowls, I was ready for it all.

But what I found when I got to campus was very different from the media portrayal of LA’s food scene.

Campus, and the entire neighborhood surrounding it, was full of every fast food option you could ever want, but strikingly missing was any sort of fresh food. (No, Subway, you don’t count.) The closest grocery store with the high-quality, healthy ingredients I had hoped to find was a 30-minute drive away and just as overpriced as everything else in LA… and I didn’t have a car.

thrive market

GIF courtesy of giphy.com

Most of us have probably heard the term “food desert” in recent media coverage, but it’s hard to truly understand until you experience living in an area with limited access to real, healthy food. Many students are fortunate enough to have the means to travel a little farther and pay a little more in order to outsource from Whole Foods or the healthier restaurants around town. But I found myself suddenly understanding why the most impoverished areas of America also suffer from the highest rates of obesity.

While talking with my mom over the phone one night about this issue and my struggle to stock my apartment with healthy, affordable food, she told me about Thrive Market, an online grocery retailer that specializes in discounted all-natural foods and beauty products, and delivers your orders directly to you.

thrive market

Photo courtesy of @fadi_k26 on Instagram

It seemed like the perfect solution to my car-less, health-nut woes, but I was still a little worried about my college-student-budget woes. “Organic,” “all-natural,” and “delivered” aren’t typically words you hear associated with “affordable,” after all…

But, yet again, it seemed my prayers had been answered.

Thrive operates on a membership discount-basis, much like Sam’s Club or Costco, but, like, online and with way better food. For an annual membership fee, members get access to Thrive’s whole catalogue of over 2,500 products at 25-50% off what you’d pay in stores. (Read: that’s an average of 35% more almond butter, quinoa pasta, and dried goji berries for the same exact price.)

thrive market

Photo courtesy of @mirabellablue on Instagram

And as if stocking my own kitchen full of healthy snacks and ingredients wasn’t enough of an attraction, Thrive’s social mission sealed the deal for me. Every time a membership to the online market is purchased, a low-income family also receives a free membership — making healthy, sustainable food options affordable and accessible.

I was sold (and so was a huge order of healthy staples, scheduled to be delivered straight to my apartment).

thrive market

Photo courtesy of @charlotte_rosefit on Instagram

A few months and several Thrive deliveries later, my kitchen is looking less like a barren desert and a lot more like a real-food oasis. It’s easier than ever to avoid the dining halls and to have a quick, healthy bite at home. Whether it’s this banana-chocolate chia pudding for breakfast, a KIND bar or crunchy chickpea snack, or quinoa pasta with organic marinara sauce for dinner, Thrive makes eating well on a budget and a time crunch really easy.

And what’s even better is that when I receive an order in the mail, I know that the same has been made possible for a family in need. Healthy eating and social good at the same time? That’s pretty hard to find, especially on a college budget.

Hooked? Sign up to join Thrive through this Spoon-exclusive link, a one-year membership can be yours for free. So get shopping — it’s your time to Thrive.