Food City, Lyft and Valley of the Sun United Way officials alongside local families and Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego broke ground on their Grocery Access Program — which will assist Greater Phoenix residents living in food deserts, or low-income areas with limited access to full-service grocery stores — on May 21 at a Food City supermarket in South Phoenix.
The goal of the Grocery Access Program is to improve access to healthy, fresh foods for Glendale, Phoenix and Tempe residents living in food deserts through affordable and reliable transportation, said Drena Kusari, Lyft’s southwest regional director.
According to Kusari, 46% of the Lyft rides in Phoenix start or end in low-income communities — which are usually food desert areas.
“With Food City and United Way, we anticipate the Grocery Access Program will make it easier, faster and less expensive for these residents in these areas to go to the grocery store,” Kusari said.
Using the code “FOODACCESSPHX,” Lyft users will have access to $2 rides to or from any of the 16 participating Food City locations and up to 12 round trips through September 1 (roundtrip fare to Food City costs $4).
Gallego, who said 7% of the households in Maricopa County do not have access to a vehicle, believes the program is a step toward wiping out food deserts in the Valley.
“This can make a huge difference to people who don’t have that ability. We want to make sure they can get fresh food home safely — as well as in the summer; frozen food home without losing it,” she said.
“We are going to have a lot of healthier families as a result of this. We want people to have the food that they want and enjoy,” Gallego said.
Marisol Salazar, a Phoenix resident who plans to participate in the Grocery Access Program, said partnerships like that of Lyft, Food City and Valley of the Sun United Way are positive for low-income communities.
“I like the help that is being offered by Food City, Lyft and United Way because it gives me access — if I don’t have transportation — to get groceries home for my family,” she said in Spanish.
Salazar added she will now be able to buy fresh food for her children without it perishing.
“If you use the service, you’re going to spend less and get home quicker. Your groceries won’t spoil or get damaged. I’m going to have the opportunity to buy more nutritious food for (my kids) so they can be healthier,” she said.
Helping families like Salazar’s resonates well with Food City’s longstanding mission.
“It’s been our family and our company’s desire and goal to be a part of the communities that we serve and to give back in a very real way, and our Food City format is no exception to that rule,” Bashas’ President and CEO Edward “Trey” Basha said.
“We’re thankful to be a part of something new that will benefit so many families. Our hope is that this project will be successful and it will continue and that we will be able to be a part,” Basha said.