Amazon Fresh, Doordash, Instacart and other food delivery services have been helping millions of people living in “food deserts” – communities where access to fresh food is scarce and hard to come by – gain better access to fresh groceries and healthy food options, according to a report.

A Brookings Metro data analysis report of four of the most prominent food delivery services in the country shows that the services reach 93% of America’s population, including 90% of the population living in traditionally defined “food deserts.” Food deserts are typically located in low-income metropolitan neighborhoods with high rates of unemployment, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Brookings Metro digital food access graph

Brookings Metro digital food access graph.

Brookings Metro data analysts said delivery services, which rose to prominence during 2020, offered more than just pizza in 2022. Analysts believe digital food access could greatly assist people who struggle with brick-and-mortar food access barriers and people facing mobility challenges or time constraints.

Amazon Fresh, whose delivery service is linked to Whole Foods, Doordash, Instacart and Walmart delivery all provide healthy food or fresh grocery options in their services. These delivery options connect people to grocery stores that may not be in their area such as Big Y, Stop and Shop and Whole Foods.

Delivery coverage statistics show that 100% of residents in the Boston, Cambridge and Newton areas have access to at least one food delivery service.

Brookings Metro delivery access statistics

Brookings Metro delivery access statistics.

The data analysis showed that 90% of the U.S. population in low-income, low-access census tracts can order from at least one food delivery platform. Coverage is wide-ranging in urban communities: 95 percent and 99 percent of the population have access to at least one platform in metropolitan areas and in very large metropolitan areas.

“Millions of people across the nation, including in major cities like Boston, live in food deserts that inhibit their access to food,” said Freddi Goldstein, spokeswoman for Uber. “We are pleased that this new report reveals how food delivery services like Uber Eats are helping to address this problem and fill an unmet need faced by low-income communities.”


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