Name: Lyft Grocery Access Program
Overview: As part of its initiative to remove transportation barriers to healthy food, and after a successful pilot in Washington, D.C., Lyft is expanding its Grocery Access Program, which provides families in underserved areas. Understanding that getting access to fresh food can be difficult when you live in a food desert, Lyft teams up with local organizations and nonprofits to give families access to supermarkets and food pantries with discounted flat-rate rides. They hope that reliable and affordable transportation will have a positive impact on their ability to acquire healthy foods. The program is part of Lyft’s City Works program, which is dedicated to improving transportation access and equity.
Location: According to Lyft, the program will now be available in 15 markets: Atlantic City.; Baltimore; Chicago; Columbus, Ohio; Detroit; Indianapolis; Los Angeles; Miami; Philadelphia; Phoenix; Portland; Richmond; and Ottawa and Toronto in Canada. Just last week, Charlotte, North Carolina was added to that list of participating cities.
Food category: Food deserts, food access, food security
Program goals: Eliminate food deserts and increase access to healthy food
How it works: The Lyft Grocery Access Program provides $2.50 Lyft shared rides to participating app users. In the first DC pilot, a participating family could receive a total of 50 rides between January 1, 2019 and June 30, 2019, which they could whenever they needed them only to go to a participating location. Potential riders can register and download the app online, where they will be shown supermarkets and pantries in the coverage area. When riders enter one of those addresses as destination and select shared ride, the fare will read $2.50. An extra fee will be added if there’s an additional passenger.
Progress to date: In April 2019 the company announced its plans to expand the program in more than a dozen cities across the country and will soon roll out more markets.
Why it is important: Food deserts are defined as parts of the country, usually impoverished areas, without access to fresh fruits, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 23 million Americans live in food deserts, and because residents in these areas often have to travel farther to access a full-service grocery store, the cost of transportation puts additional pressure on their already limited household budget. Moreover, lack of access to the food necessary for a healthy and balanced diet can lead to poor health outcomes.
Program will be initiated: The program has been ongoing since January 2019 and will continue to expand across the country with more cities like Charlotte being added as develops further.
Point of Contact: For more information, fill out an inquiry form here.
Similar practices: Lyft is one of a few rideshare companies that offer users discounted rides to grocery stores in order to increase access to healthy food. Uber had previously partnered with Walmart to deliver groceries but ended the pilot program after three months as it didn’t achieve the intended goals in customer experience and revenue.
In northeast Oklahoma City, however, the public transit company, EMBARK, and local churches are offering free rides to residents after one of the few grocery stores in the area closed its doors. The Safe Routes to School Partnership put out a report, Wheels on the Bus Go to the Grocery Store, detailing how transit companies can improve food access.