DoorDash, InstaCart Are Working With Food Banks to Deliver Groceries to People in Need

U.S. food banks

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

  • Grocery delivery services like Amazon, DoorDash, and Instacart are partnering with cities and food banks to help with food deliveries and logistics.
  • Although food banks have been serving their local communities, it's not always possible for families to get access to a food pantry due to transportation gaps and other reasons.

Food delivery services like DoorDash and Instacart are taking a bigger role in expanding food access to underserved communities across the country.

Since 2018, DoorDash has been delivering meals from food banks and food pantries through Project DASH. At the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health in September, the company announced a partnership with 18 cities to provide funding for food delivery and logistical expertise.

Grocery delivery company Instacart also launched Instacart Health, which will make it easier for SNAP participants to use their benefits to purchase groceries from this platform. It is also working with the Partnership for a Healthier America to pilot the Fresh Funds program, which offers nutritious food stipends and free delivery on Fresh Funds food purchases in underserved communities.

“The eventual goal is for as many SNAP recipients as possible to have access to healthy food via the convenience of delivery,” Nancy E. Roman, president and CEO of Partnership for a Healthier America, told Verywell via email.

While food tech companies have the potential to significantly reduce barriers to food insecurity, both DoorDash and Instacart have been criticized for paying low wages to their delivery workers. 

A spokesperson for DoorDash told Verywell that their delivery workers are paid for ProjectDash deliveries like any other order, except these are no-tip orders. However, multiple Project DASH orders are included in the same trip so the Dasher makes what they would on a retail order, according to the spokesperson.

Barriers to Food Access

For the 33.8 million Americans living in food-insecure households, it isn't always as simple as going to the nearest food pantry. Distance, public transportation gaps, and family care responsibilities are just some of the barriers preventing people from getting food access. And some may not want to wait in a long line outside a food pantry in their neighborhood.

"At times it can be difficult to get food to folks who really need it as there are stigmas around food access and folks don’t feel comfortable picking up food,” John Sudolsky, director of home delivery and senior programs with the Share Food Program in Philadelphia, told Verywell in an email.

Even if a food bank offered its own delivery service, some families might not want a truck with the food bank logo to pull up outside their homes.

Providing “dignity, agency, choice, and cultural sensitivity” are some of the biggest challenges food pantries face, according to Charles Platkin, PhD, JD, MPH, the executive director of the Hunter College New York City Food Policy Center.

“You have a basic human right for good, healthy, nutritious, nutrient-dense foods that’s affordable,” Platkin told Verywell.

The Role of Food Delivery Services

Amazon, Instacart, DoorDash, and GrubHub have all launched their own initiatives to bring food to those in need. Both Amazon and DoorDash specifically have teamed up with local food pantries to help break down some of the barriers to food access.

Organizations, like the Share Food Program in Philadelphia that have partnered with Project DASH, tout this service as a game changer.

“Before Project DASH, deliveries to recipient’s homes were more of a dream rather than a reality. Some of our partner agencies offered home delivery service sparingly, but the ability to have unlimited home deliveries is really revolutionizing the food access world and how food banks operate,” Sudolsky said.

Since partnering with Project DASH, the Share Food Program has more than doubled the number of people they are able to serve with home deliveries.

United Way of New York City, a nonprofit serving low-income New Yorkers, also said that the DoorDash partnership has allowed its food pantries to serve vulnerable populations like the immunocompromised, elderly, and those afraid of anti-Asian violence since the pandemic.

“The deliveries were a vital lifeline to people in the community who otherwise lacked consistent, reliable access to healthy food,” Sylvia Pong, RD, CDN, the senior director of nutrition programs with United Way of New York City, told Verywell in an email.

Many nonprofits that work with these grocery delivery services said that the partnerships have helped their efforts to fight food insecurity. But Platkin said that more research needs to be done to determine the most cost-effective and sustainable way to get food to people in need.

“We don’t want the government or politicians to check a box and say, ‘DoorDash, GrubHub, Instacart Health, the private sector is solving the problem of hunger in the United States,’” Platkin said. “That’s the last thing we want people to think.”

What This Means For You

If you or a loved one is struggling with food security, you can find a local food bank on the Feeding America website. Some of the food pantries may offer delivery services if you can't access the physical site conveniently.

1 Source
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  1. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Food security status of U.S. households in 2021.