New Grocery Access Program looks to combat food deserts in Columbia

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Published: Oct. 27, 2023 at 10:05 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The City of Columbia has partnered with Instacart to help improve access for people living in the city’s food deserts. Columbia’s Grocery Access Pilot program will help residents get fresh groceries delivered to their doorstep for one year using Instacart, and without any delivery fees.

“As you can see to my left, we have food desert. If you look to my right, we have a food desert,” Columbia Mayor Daniel Rickenmann said, adding, “Straightforward and behind us we have food deserts.”

Back in April 2023, City Council voted unanimously to approve funding 10,000 dollars towards the program from the Resilient Columbia Fund. The GAP program caters to those who live in a verified food desert and are also eligible for needs-based assistance.

“It’s always a great example that public-private partnerships adjust, create, steal, and adapt real solutions to solve a problem together and I hope this will challenge my colleagues and my neighbors to think outside the box,” Mayor Rickenmann said.

Columbia’s Parks and Rec Department will help provide guidance for people enrolled to help them better understand how to navigate the technology and services. Casey Aden-Wansbury explains the support Instacart will provide that will add fuel to the fire.

“On our side, we will be developing a hub on Instacart that will be for participants of this program to have an easy landing place to start grocery shopping,” Aden-Wansbury said, adding, “Instacart has a number of resources including a senior hotline that’s dedicated to helping seniors who might be less familiar with technology; how to use the app and how to order groceries.”

Columbia resident Bob Petrulis feels it’s important the elderly and low-income demographics get access to this program first. He also says having support and guidance from the partnership in using the technology will help bring health foods to those communities.

“I think it could be a great opportunity for those residents,” Petrulis, said, adding, “The fact that parks and rec folks over at Hyatt Park will be there to help support folks who may be technologically challenged or difficulty navigating this, I think that is a great resource as well.”

One hundred and ten residents will be eligible initially for the pilot program. The City hopes to add more applicants in the future.

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