Hoping to minimize the impact of food deserts, the popular ride-sharing service Lyft has announced that it has started offering those in Atlantic City discounted transportation to and from a nearby supermarket.
The pilot program, which started May 1 and spans until Nov. 1, provides local families with a $5 flat fare ride to the Village Super Market ShopRite in Absecon and another $5 ride back home with their groceries.
Atlantic City is designated a food desert by U.S Department of Agriculture. The state’s transition report on Atlantic City, co-authored by Jim Johnson, identified food accessibility as one of the issues that stakeholders need to address.
The Community FoodBank of New Jersey is helping to identify the families in need of transportation.
They have already registered at least three families using their partnering food pantries in Atlantic City, which include St. Andrews by the Sea, Union Baptist Temple and Barlinvis Apartments food program, said Kimberly Arroyo, the Community FoodBank’s director of programs and agency relations.
Any Atlantic City resident can sign up, but the food bank is targeting those who already get service from the network of food pantries in the city, Arroyo said.
Residents who download the app to their mobile phone can enter a promo code that gives them 25 rides per week that are automatically renewed.
Their goal is to have 50 people signed up by the end of the month.
“We currently work year round with the Community Food Bank of NJ to fight hunger in our local community, however this program will allow us to take our efforts to the next level. The ability to connect local residents in need with access to fresh foods is our ultimate goal,” said Perry Blatt, director of marketing and business development, Village Super Market.
The offer is part of the ride company’s national Grocery Access Program, which partners with Lyft drivers, riders, local activists and city leaders to reduce the time, transportation barriers, and financial burden as families plan their shopping trips to select grocery providers.
In addition to the Lyft program, city and state officials are continuing efforts to bring a major supermarket in Atlantic City within the year as they look to give residents greater access to food.
A location has been selected at Baltic and Ohio avenues, and Councilman Kaleem Shabazz said requests for proposals could go out within the next 30 days.
Residents’ options for grocery shopping now are limited to corner stores and discount grocers like Save-A-Lot.
In October 2018, the Casino Reinvestment and Development Authority hired Uplift Solutions consulting company to address the lack of a major supermarket in the city, and they have held community meetings to get residents’ input on what they want from a food provider.
Those who came out expressed concerns mainly about the lack of public transportation directly to the site, and the need to pick an operator that will provide a wide variety of food at a fair price.
Lyft stated in a news release that 35% of rides in New Jersey started or ended in low-income communities.
Shabazz said that Lyft is a welcomed solution that adds to officials’ overall push for accessibility.
“I think there’s a consensus among everyone who is involved in this project that we have to make it as accessible as possible, that people who don’t have private transportation have to have other modes,” he said.
The supermarket will be roughly 30,000 square feet, while the project’s total footprint is anticipated to be about 40,000 square feet. Shabazz said that there will also be about 200 parking spots.
“Everyone should have access to fresh and healthy foods, and we recognize that grocery shopping comes with many challenges in some neighborhoods,” said Eric Plummer, Market Manager of Lyft New Jersey. “Lyft is committed to working towards a future where New Jersey residents can fully overcome the barrier of traveling to food retailers for healthy food options.”
Lyft expanded to Atlantic City in April after completing a 6-month pilot project in Washington, D.C., that provided families there with $2.50 flat fare rides to and from four grocery stores in two areas of the city, according to the company’s website.
Along with Atlantic City, the company stated that the program is also set to launch in Baltimore, Chicago, Columbus, Detroit, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Miami, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, Richmond and Toronto.