Eating healthy isn’t always easy, especially if you don’t have access to affordable fresh fruit and produce. Depending where in the world you live, you may find that eating healthy means choosing between spending an arm and a leg at overpriced grocery stores or settling for cheap, easy food options at whatever stores are available to you. Lyft is hoping to give people living in food deserts, or areas without affordable health food options, access to a whole new world of grocery shopping on the cheap.
The car service is offering discounted rides to the grocery store in at least 15 cities in the United States and Canada for folks living in areas with limited healthy shopping options, according to a spokesperson. The program is called the Grocery Access Program, which Lyft started in response to the millions of people living in low-income, rural neighborhoods with little to no access to grocery stores or transportation. The company is teaming up with local partners in each of the cities in which the program is active.
“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.”
Partners, which include farmers markets and food banks, have the power to decide who is eligible for the program, meaning applications will vary by city. The Verge suggested in a report about the program that requirements for the Grocery Access Program will likely include living in a food desert and qualifying for food stamps.
Lyft will debut the program in Atlantic City, Baltimore, Chicago, Columbus, Detroit, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, Richmond, Ottawa, and Toronto. Shared rides are expected to cost a flat fee of $2.50, but Lyft noted that “prices may vary slightly per market.”
“Access to healthy food is a significant issue for millions of people in the US. We’ve seen the impact that affordable and reliable transportation can have on families through our Grocery Access Program in DC, which is why we’re launching the program nationwide, alongside local nonprofits and organizations who will help us reach those who need it most,” Lyft’s head of social impact said in a statement about the Grocery Access Program.
Lyft first tested the Grocery Access Program in Washington, DC in December 2018. The ride sharing service noted in a blog post that DC’s Wards 7 and 8 had only three grocery stores, which served more than 150,000 residents. Lyft partnered with Martha’s Table to help bring more food options to people who were lacking access.
Shared rides cost $2.50 to all three grocery stores in the area, as well as The Market at Martha’s Table from January to June. Each family that qualified for the program received 50 rides total at that rate. The rides could be used at any time during the course of the pilot program. Latinique Cooper, who had access to the program, told Lyft, she and her children were able to make healthier food meals because of the Grocery Access Program. She also said the program took “a load off my shoulders,” noting that she was able to bring groceries home from the store with ease thanks to Lyft.
“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 on days I don’t want to be physically burdened with grocery bags on the bus or train,” she said. “It has helped with all of the little things that people with cars often take for granted. I was able to buy my son’s birthday cake and transport it home with ease. That was very important to me and I will be doing that again in June for my older son’s birthday.”
Lyft’s has been making getting around easier since 2012, but its new program goes beyond quick, cheap rides. The Grocery Access Program is opening the doors to healthy eating for people who otherwise wouldn’t have access, and there’s no denying that’s a noble feat.