Could food delivery apps help close the “grocery gap”?

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According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 44.3 million Americans live in neighborhoods without convenient access to a brick-and-mortar grocery store with fresh food. New research from the Brookings Institution suggests that online grocery delivery could be part of the solution.

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Spending on online grocery delivery has quadrupled since 2019. Companies like Instacart are just about everywhere.  

Adie Tomer with Brookings said that 90% of Americans living in places without reliable access to fresh food have at least one online grocery option. 

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“Critically we did not find barriers based on income or race for the delivery map,” he said, adding that the growth of online delivery could ease the so-called “grocery gap”. 

But there are hurdles. Just because Amazon Fresh delivers to a low-income urban or rural neighborhood, it doesn’t mean the residents can get online to order it. 

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“In some cases, even lower than 60% or 50% of the population may have an in-home broadband subscription,” Tomer said.

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Caroline Harries with The Food Trust said while online delivery will help, it’s not a silver bullet.  

“Grocery stores and farmers markets and healthy corner stores also bring important economic development benefits, like jobs,” she said.

They don’t charge delivery fees, either. 

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