93% of US has access to food delivery, but barriers remain: report

Diving brief:

  • Ninety-three percent of the U.S. population, including 90% of people living in areas traditionally defined as “food deserts,” have access to food delivery by at least one of the four major players Amazon (Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods Market), Instacart, Uber Eats or Walmart According to research The Brookings Institution released last week.
  • Digital access to food could be a game-changer, especially for shoppers who live in food deserts or face mobility issues, but there is a lack of assessments on trade challenges and needs electronics at the local level, according to the report, which was written. by Senior Research Assistant Caroline George and Senior Researcher Adie Tomer.
  • Delivery areas are still concentrated in the country’s largest metropolitan areas, according to the report, and only 37% of rural residents have access to one of the food delivery services analyzed by Brookings.

Overview of the dive:

Using data from Amazon, Instacart, Uber Eats, and Walmart on their fresh or prepared food delivery service areas in Q3 2021, Brookings found that most people in the United States live in delivery areas. companies and usually have more than one option. Half live in places served by the four companies, while 32% have access to three of them.

Meanwhile, in areas the USDA has identified as low-income, low-access areas — places where people tend not to live near brick-and-mortar grocery stores — Brookings’ analysis found that 90% of the population has at least one service, while 44% is served by all four companies.

Having widespread service — and competition — doesn’t make food delivery equally accessible to different populations across the country, the report notes. Several barriers, including lack of access to landline or mobile broadband and income constraints, pose challenges for people trying to buy groceries and prepared meals online, the researchers said.

Grocery shoppers may also be unaware of available e-commerce options or have the digital literacy skills to feel comfortable ordering online, the report said, drawing attention to the need for greater customer awareness.

As the pandemic has boosted e-commerce adoption, Brookings pointed to the digital disparities grocers face. For grocers looking to reach more online shoppers, especially in rural America or low-income areas, offering delivery probably won’t be enough to woo shoppers.

The report notes that SNAP online purchases have exploded, but SNAP recipients still face affordability issues with delivery charges and tips, which are not covered by SNAP benefits, along with other issues such as “volatile algorithmic pricing”.

“The success of the digital food system…should not be judged by retail sales share or company valuations. Instead, the true success of the digital food system will be measured by its ability to reduce food insecurity, facilitate environmental stewardship, and advance the prosperity of workers and business owners,” noted the authors.

Affordability, quality and trust issues should be factored into digital access to food, the report says, noting that ‘gaps’ in delivery services in small towns and rural areas should also be considered. be filled. Meanwhile, buyers are impacted by public policy issues such as housing affordability, with larger structural disadvantages related to access to food.