Instacart Fighting Food Deserts Through Municipal Partnership

Company links up with City of Columbia, S.C., for Grocery Access Pilot
Emily Crowe
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Instacart and the City of Columbia, S.C., are offering a complimentary Instacart+ membership and $5/month in Instacart Health Fresh Funds stipends for one year to residents living in food deserts.

In an effort to help improve access to nutritious food for families throughout Columbia, S.C., Instacart is partnering with the municipality on a new initiative dubbed the Grocery Access Pilot (GAP). The program will offer a complimentary Instacart+ membership and $5/month in Instacart Health Fresh Funds stipends for one year for up to 110 Columbia residents living in food deserts. 

The new program is designed to help cover the cost of online grocery delivery, and Instacart and the City of Columbia will also create a virtual storefront for residents to help encourage nutritious shopping choices. According to the city, individuals that live more than one mile from a grocery store and are eligible for needs-based assistance, such as Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security Disability, can apply for the program.

“The city has been working to combat food insecurity for years, so I am excited to try something new,” said Columbia Mayor Daniel Rickenmann. “We found a way to get groceries straight to the communities that have low-access without limiting choice, and I look forward to seeing how this partnership with Instacart reduces barriers in Columbia.”

[Read more: "Food Insecurity On the Rise: Report"]

Casey Aden-Wansbury, VP of policy and government affairs for Instacart, shared in a company blog post that Instacart now reaches more than 93% of households in food deserts and has the opportunity to make a difference for families and communities that have historically struggled to access nutritious food. The company plans to partner with more municipalities to start similar programs.

“We’re also excited about this partnership because we know city leaders like Mayor Rickenmann deeply understand the unique ways hunger and nutrition insecurity affect their communities,” Aden-Wansbury wrote. “This collaboration showcases what’s possible when we bring together their unparalleled expertise with our private sector technology and infrastructure.” 

Instacart has been busy in recent months expanding food and delivery access to low-income consumers, and also creating partnerships that will help boost that access. The company has partnered with BJ’s Wholesale Club to make its products  available online to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients for delivery in as fast as an hour. 

Additionally, Instacart has joined forces with health care provider Kaiser Permanente to study the impact of convenient access to nutritious food on health outcomes. As part of the study, Kaiser Permanente will provide participants with Instacart Health Fresh Funds to purchase nutritious foods and pantry staples that will be delivered directly to their homes via Instacart.

San Francisco-based Instacart partners with more than 1,400 national, regional and local retail banners to deliver from 80,000-plus stores across more than 14,000 cities in North America. In September, Instacart started trading under the ticker CART following a $30 per share price set for its initial public offering (IPO).

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