Calls On NYCHA To Create Pilot Program For Shared Grocery Delivery Centers

Published on May 28, 2021, 3:40 pm
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Today, New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer called on the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) to pilot an innovative Shared Grocery Delivery Centers program that would allow residents to accept food deliveries from online retailers at a central location within NYCHA developments without steep minimums and delivery fees.

In a letter to NYCHA Chair and CEO Greg Russ, Comptroller Stringer underscored how the nation’s largest public housing agency has an obligation to combat the food insecurity crisis impacting low income communities of color in New York City. Comptroller Stringer’s proposal for Shared Delivery Centers would expand access to healthy and affordable grocery options for NYCHA residents in food deserts, increase convenience for residents who will be able to receive groceries even if they are away, expand SNAP purchasing power, and reduce delivery truck idling and traffic congestion near NYCHA developments.

“The CoViD-19 pandemic and economic crisis have left families in NYCHA especially vulnerable to malnutrition and hunger,” said Comptroller Stringer. “Online food retailers can be a lifeline for NYCHA residents facing food insecurity — but the steep minimums and delivery charges are out of reach for so many families trying to ends meet. My proposal for a “shared delivery center” program would allow NYCHA residents to combine their purchasing power so that more of their hard-earned money is spent on food, not fees — and create access to nutritious groceries not available in so many of the city’s food deserts. There is no reason that a single New Yorker should go hungry in our city, and I urge NYCHA to swiftly get to work to implement this program and help tenants put healthy food on the table.”

Comptroller Stringer’s letter recommended the following steps NYCHA could take to implement this pilot program:

  • Identify a NYCHA development with appropriate community space that already has cold storage or has the capacity to accommodate a large fridge and freezer. This space will serve as the “Shared Grocery Delivery Center” and supports NYCHA’s aim of maximizing uses in ground floor community space which may have vacancy rates in excess of 20 percent.
  • Establish a partnership with a retailer or retailers that will waive delivery fees and minimum order requirements for residents of the development in exchange for use of a single grocery drop-off location and the possibility of an expanded customer base. Online retailers that accept SNAP should be prioritized when selecting a partner.
  • Allocate staff or volunteer resources to accept groceries in the community space on behalf of residents and ensure their security until they are picked up.
  • Promote the program within the development so residents are aware of the opportunity.

Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America, said: “We have long championed the idea of food delivery hubs at public housing developments. Such hubs would be a win-win, making it easier and cheaper for companies to deliver food and making it more convenient for community members — most of whom are working — to pick it up at a time that works best for them. The end goal is to make healthier food cheaper and more convenient for struggling New Yorkers. We hope that NYCHA adopts this recommendation quickly.”

Patricia Burns, Lehman Houses Tenant Association President, said “For too long we’ve seen our residents struggle with getting affordable, nutritious groceries for their families, and that was before the CoViD-19 pandemic hit. Comptroller Stringer’s plan to create shared delivery centers is an innovative and cost-effective solution that we urge NYCHA to start implementing today.”

Tyrone Ball, President of St. Nicholas Houses Tenant Association, said “NYCHA residents and working families shouldn’t have to waste their hard-earned dollars on excessive grocery delivery fees. Comptroller Stringer’s proposal to establish shared delivery sites in NYCHA housing would allow residents to take advantage of all the convenience that online grocery delivery has to offer at a much more affordable price while expanding SNAP benefits and reducing truck idling and traffic around NYCHA developments.”

Leona Shoemaker, President of King Towers Tenant Association, said “As our city begins to recover from CoViD-19, NYCHA residents and lower-income communities of color who were hit hardest by the pandemic are still grappling with economic hardship and food insecurity. This proposal is an example of how we can make an equitable recovery and a smart solution for making sure all New Yorkers have access to necessities like healthy and affordable groceries. Thank you to Comptroller Stringer for speaking up on behalf of NYCHA residents and lifting up underserved communities.”

Luis Torres, President of Clinton Houses Tenant Association, said “Hardworking families and homebound senior citizens in NYCHA housing have much to gain from Comptroller Stringer’s proposal, including increased affordability and options for healthy food, expanded SNAP access, and the ability to receive deliveries while working long hours. We proudly stand with Comptroller Stringer in calling on NYCHA to start creating shared delivery centers immediately and help our residents put high-quality meals on the table.”

In February 2020, Comptroller Stringer released a comprehensive food security plan to combat hunger in New York City and reach any New Yorker in need regardless of immigration status. Comptroller Stringer called for the City to create a $25 million emergency food program to serve undocumented New Yorkers left out of federal and state safety net programs, expand SNAP outreach and purchasing power, and increase cultural competence, including expanded kosher and halal options, in the City’s current food programming to ensure that New Yorkers of all backgrounds are able to access benefits. In April 2020, Comptroller Stringer, in partnership with Islamic Relief USA, local elected officials, Muslim community leaders and hunger relief organizations, announced “Iftar on the Go” — a five-borough food distribution plan to expand access to free, halal meals and conduct SNAP outreach in multiple languages for New Yorkers during Ramadan.

To read Comptroller Stringer’s letter to NYCHA, please visit here.

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