Lyft’s Grocery Access Program Is Expanding Nationwide To Help More People In Food Deserts Get Groceries

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Getting access to fresh food can be super hard when you live in an area without any supermarkets in walkable distance — aka, a food desert. To help families gain better access to fresh fruits and vegetables, Lyft is expanding its Grocery Access Program after a successful pilot in Washington, D.C., the company said in a statement emailed to Bustle. Lyft is teaming up with local organizations and nonprofits to give families access to supermarkets and food pantries in more than a dozen cities across the country.

Food deserts are geographic areas where affordable and nutritious food is in short supply because grocery stores are too far away for most residents, according to DoSomething.org, and about 23 million Americans live in food deserts. Lyft originally launched its Grocery Access Program in the D.C. area back in Jan. 2019, offering local families discounted rides for a flat $2.50 fee to participating grocery stores and a local nonprofit. Lyft said in a statement emailed to Bustle that the pilot was successful, with Lyft drivers giving thousands of rides and serving hundreds of families in the D.C. area. The program is a part of Lyft’s City Works program, which is dedicated to improving transportation access and equity.

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“The Lyft Grocery Access Program has given me peace of mind knowing that I can get to the grocery store and home safely. It has helped me get through the cold winter months and on days I don't want to be physically burdened with grocery bags on the bus or train,” Latinique Cooper, a Lyft user, said in an email. “The program has taken a load off of my shoulders. I can bring healthy food home consistently and not have to worry about the amount I have to carry and when I will need to restock.”

Given the success of the program in D.C., Lyft recently expanded the program to Atlanta and that it will be launching the program in 13 cities nationwide, including Atlantic City, Baltimore, Chicago, Columbus, Detroit, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, and Richmond, as well as Ottawa and Toronto, Canada.

"Access to healthy food is a significant issue for millions of people in the U.S.,” Mike Masserman, Lyft Head of Social Impact, said in an email. “We've seen the impact that affordable and reliable transportation can have on families through our Grocery Access Program in D.C., which is why we're launching the program nationwide, alongside local nonprofits and organizations who will help us reach those who need it most."

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The Grocery Access Program will run through June 30, 2019, and participating families can receive 50 rides during that timeframe. You can only use the program to go the participating locations, according to Lyft, so you can’t request any route changes or detours. In the D.C. area, Giant, Safeway, and Martha’s Table are some of the participating locations, but Village Super Market ShopRite is a participating location in New Jersey. All you have to do is register online; the promo section of the app will show you addresses of supermarkets in your coverage area, and when you enter one of those addresses as a destination and select shared rides, the fare should read $2.50. An extra fee will be added if there's an additional passenger.

With the pervasiveness of food deserts in the United States, it’s encouraging to see a business taking steps to provide better access to fresh foods. If the Grocery Access Program continues to be successful, hopefully the company will continue to expand it into a permanent fixture instead of a limited-time option.