Newly published research from The Brookings Institution revealed that food delivery apps are actually helping to address food insecurity and make fresh groceries and prepared food more available to millions of people in low-income communities in New York and across the country.
“Millions of people across the nation live in food deserts that inhibit their access to food,” said Freddi Goldstein, spokeswoman for Uber. “We are pleased that this new report reveals how food delivery services like Uber Eats are helping to address this problem and fill an unmet need faced by low-income communities.”
The researchers found that food delivery services reach 93% of America’s population, including 90% of the population living in traditionally defined “food deserts.” Their analyses found that 90% of the U.S. population in low-income, low-access (LILA) census tracts can order from at least one food delivery platform. Coverage is nearly ubiquitous in urban environments: 95% and 99% of the population has access to at least one platform in metropolitan areas and in very large metropolitan areas, respectively.
As evidenced by statistics referenced in the Brookings reports, the COVID-19 pandemic increased the demand for food delivery and digital food services across the country: monthly online grocery spending grew from $2 billion in August 2019 to $6.5 billion in March 2020, and to $8.6 billion in November 2021.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) expanded their SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot during the COVID-19 pandemic, broadening low-income communities’ access to purchasing groceries through food delivery apps.
First-time consumers drove most of this growth: over the same period, the number of new users increased 76% in low-income neighborhoods, compared with 63% in the city overall.