SAN FRANCISCO—Twenty-four million Americans live in food deserts, or areas where healthy food options are scarce or nonexistent. Lyft hopes to give people better access to food by offering discounted rides to grocery stores through a new program called the Grocery Access Program, reports Thrillist.
After a successful pilot in Washington D.C., Lyft is expanding the efforts to 15 more cities in the U.S. and Canada. The company is teaming up with local partners in each of the cities, which include farmers markets and food banks. These organizations will have the power to decide eligibility, meaning applications will vary by geographic location. The Verge reported that this will likely mean applicants must live in a food desert and also qualify for SNAP benefits.
“With 2.3 million people living in low-income, rural areas that are more than 10 miles from a supermarket, affordable and reliable access to transportation can have a huge impact on this problem — and we want to help,” Lyft said of the program. “By teaming up with local organizations and nonprofits, we're focused on minimizing the impact of food deserts through better access to transportation.”
In Washington D.C., the program focused on an area with 150,000 residents and three grocery stores. The shared rides cost $2.50 to all three stores in the area, and each family who qualified received 50 rides total at that rate. Now, the program will expand to Atlantic City, Baltimore, Chicago, Columbus, Detroit, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Miami, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, Richmond and Toronto, Canada.
A Business Insider article says that “Lyft’s partnership comes at a time when programs that treat social determinants of health are top of mind in the healthcare industry.” The Grocery Access Program should also help the ridesharing company heighten the competition, as it becomes more valuable to insurer partners who want to mitigate costs associated with poor nutrition.