CHICAGO — Online grocer Peapod, a division of Ahold, is hosting its first community forum today in the Chicago Lawn neighborhood to address food deserts, large geographic areas that have no or distant mainstream grocery stores.
The forum, in partnership with sustainable communities group Neighbor Capital, is part of the Healthy Families Project that Peapod and Neighbor Capital launched earlier this year to explore how to offer online ordering to residents of food desert communities.
Forum guests will learn how they can participate in a community drop-off program, how to place orders online and about employment opportunities. They also will be treated to a healthy meal and free samples of Peapod’s new “Best Fruit of the Season,” a 10- piece bundle of mixed fruit to be sold at the deeply discounted price of $2.99 at select pickup sites (libraries, schools and community centers) in food deserts.
Peapod, through its alliance with Neighbor Capital, is looking to partner with community groups to help facilitate ordering online since “a lot of people in food deserts do not have computers in their homes,” said Peapod Senior Vice President and General Manager Scott DeGraeve.
Earlier this year, Peapod hired Chicago-based food desert researcher Mari Gallagher to conduct a block-by-block analysis to identify areas where Peapod may positively impact the greatest number of people. Among Gallagher’s findings: ZIP code 60629 (the focus of the Healthy Families Project) includes 37 “highest impact” blocks for increasing healthy food for children, eight such blocks for reducing diabetes for the overall population through increased mainstream food solutions, and 27 such blocks for increasing healthy foods for the total population. ZIP code 60629 also contains many households without automobiles.
Peapod recently expanded service into the 60629 and 60632 ZIP codes, which include the Chicago Lawn, Brighton Park and Archer Heights communities.
“The barriers are pervasive in food desert communities, but we’re moving forward with the belief that with education and strategic partnerships, we can reverse these negative trends for the long term,” said DeGraeve. “For us, opening up access to healthy food choices in food desert communities is more than a business imperative; it’s the right thing to do.”
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