I’ve written about the downsides of companies that bring groceries to our doorsteps, such as Instacart and Uber Eats. Delivery of app-based fresh food affects our neighborhoods and demands punishment for workers.
But today I want to focus on one of the positive aspects of delivery apps. New research published by the Brookings Institution shows that app companies are providing fresh food to millions of low-income Americans who cannot afford to buy it in person.
While researchers acknowledge problems with food delivery apps, two analyzes published Wednesday strongly oppose the idea that these services are primarily a way for relatively wealthy people to save time and avoid hassle. While it costs more in our communities. Delivery apps may be this, but they’re also democratizing both access to and purchase of fresh food.
Broadly speaking, Brookings’ research confirms the notion that technological change can bring good, and is a call to action to shape emerging technologies to better serve all Americans.
Let’s dig into the details. Biggest benefit from research by Caroline George and Eddie Tomer: Approximately 90% of Americans, where sometimes referred to as “food desserts,” have access to at least one of the four digital food delivery services tested in the study. ۔ Food Desert is generally described as a low-income neighborhood where some residents live a short walk or 20 miles from the supermarket.
“We’re not Polyana here, but these four services deserve credit,” Tomar told me. “These services are frontier everywhere, and where they are not, they are a matter of geography rather than income, race or other demographic conditions.”
The study looked at fresh food shipments from Amazon’s Amazon Fresh & Whole Foods, InstaCart, Uber Eats and Walmart. (Meredith Copt Levin, New York Times chief executive, is a member of InstaCart’s board of directors.)
Living near a supermarket or having an Instacart grocery shopper available through the app doesn’t help if food is unbearable, a major cause of hunger in the United States.
But George and Tomer also found that low-income households were ordering food deliveries, and that orders from the U.S. government have increased dramatically over the past two years, after dramatically increasing the capacity of Americans to use aid benefits. Increased, such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance. Programs for buying food online, or food stamps.
Brookings researchers also had concerns about food delivery apps. People who live in rural areas live far away from stores that sell fresh food and need these services very much, but the analysis shows that they are much less likely than the residents of the city. Lack of access to internet and lack of trust in the quality of food provided by delivery services are also obstacles to access to online food.
It is unknown at this time what he will do after leaving the post. Brookings researchers say delivery apps could further contribute to the problems of the US food system, partly because food delivery often costs more than buying fresh food in stores. Or, delivery apps can be part of the solution.
The message of the research is that policy makers and the public should view these apps not as a new curiosity but as part of the American food system that serves us all and our communities, our workforce, the environment and the economy.
“As the digital food system continues to mature, now is the time to design policies that help utilize the benefits for the public good,” the researchers wrote.
Their policy proposals include allowing food stamps to cover delivery fees and other additional costs of online ordering, expanding the pilot program for other government food benefits to include online shopping, and government subsidies for Internet service. Experiment with, to reach as many people as possible.
Brookings’ analysis also said more research is needed to understand the systemic implications of all kinds of digital changes, including delivery apps, automation in agriculture and food warehouses, technology for food safety tracking and grocery stores. Checkout computer.
This is a useful message. Technological change is not something that just happens to us. This requires a smart and effective policy to collectively use the technology we want collectively.