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Food Delivery An Answer to Food Insecurity

When millions of Americans were suddenly confined to their homes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for grocery delivery exploded. Yet while home delivery was becoming a popular and commonplace option for many, it remained and still remains out of reach for many people who would benefit from it most — those facing food insecurity. 

Food insecurity, defined as a lack of consistent access to enough food to live a healthy life, is a complex issue. While low income remains the largest single driver of food insecurity, many people still struggle to take advantage of free resources they are eligible for due to limited access to reliable transportation and mobility. Now, however, the ubiquity of grocery delivery shows us a way to sidestep these barriers. 

As the CEO and co-founder of Good Apple, a social venture based out of Austin, Texas, I have seen firsthand how powerful grocery delivery as an intervention for food insecurity can be. Our program delivers fresh fruits and vegetables directly to the homes of people facing food insecurity, free of charge. Our impact boxes are paid for by subscribers that opt into our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), which allows us to raise revenue to fund our giveback programs. 

I receive numerous applications to enroll in our program every single day. It is clear that the need for grocery delivery services is there.

Austin’s long history of geographic segregation and unequal development of transportation infrastructure makes limited mobility a particularly important local driver of food insecurity. Local food insecurity rates are higher than the national average, despite having more food pantries than any other city in Texas and one of the largest food banks in the country. (This is not to denigrate the City of Austin, which has made addressing hunger a priority and recently allocated over $100M to fight food insecurity).

Government action is crucial if we wish to eradicate food insecurity, but I believe that the community plays an essential part as well. Our goal with Good Apple is to sustainably fund our giveback programs by operating a paid CSA-style produce delivery service that supports local farmers and gives our community the chance to help fight hunger with every meal. Self-funding in this way allows us to be flexible, move more quickly, and reach more people in need. 

Only eight days after lockdowns first went into effect in March of 2020, we launched our “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” program, which brought free food to the elderly and immunocompromised facing food insecurity that were at high risk of COVID-19. Because we moved quickly, we were able to help people who may have been excluded from federal food assistance programs, like impoverished working people, seniors, people with disabilities or who are immunocompromised, and those facing a sudden food crisis. 

Our clients face special circumstances that make it hard for them to access traditional resources like food pantries. For example, Lessly, one of our impact clients, needs food delivery because her four-year-old son has hydrocephalus, a medical condition that requires a lot of care and makes going out difficult. Another Good Apple impact client, Spencer, needs food delivery because he acts as a live-in caretaker for his immunocompromised mother. Lessly’s and Spencer’s situations are unique, and require a unique solution. That’s where we try to bridge the gap. 

Good Apple has grown considerably since we started in 2019, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the past summer alone, we delivered 1,800 boxes of fresh produce to over 800 households in need, and since we started we’ve delivered over 30,000 impact boxes, equivalent to over 500,000 meals, to Austin residents facing food insecurity. 

Those are big numbers, but the need is even bigger. Samantha Rosenberg, Good Apple’s director of social impact, says, “I receive numerous applications to enroll in our program every single day. It is clear that the need for grocery delivery services is there. My hope is that Good Apple keeps growing, allowing me to serve as many clients as possible.” 

Policy changes have the potential to make a huge difference. For example, allowing SNAP dollars to be used for grocery delivery could potentially eradicate urban food deserts. Improving public transportation in underserved areas would increase utilization of existing social services and food resources.

But people need food now, and we can’t afford to wait on top-down solutions. Community-driven solutions like Good Apple have the potential to create sustainable change quickly and effectively. The world looks very different now compared to how it looked just a few years ago, and grocery delivery is clearly here to stay. Let’s figure out how to make it accessible for everyone.

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