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Analysis

Lyft Expands Grocery Access Program to Combat 'Food Deserts'

By Jack O'Brien  
   April 25, 2019

The ridesharing giant is aiming to address 'food deserts' with affordable, reliable transportation options.

As part of its continuing push into healthcare, Lyft announced the expansion of its grocery access program Thursday morning.

The ridesharing giant first launched the pilot program in Washington, D.C. in December, targeting neighborhoods that had unreliable access to fresh food.

The D.C. pilot program provided families with $2.50 shared rides through Lyft to all three grocery stores in Ward 7 and 8, as well as to The Market at Martha's Table.

In its press release announcing the launch of the program, Lyft emphasized its aim to "reduce the time, transportation barriers, and financial burden as hundreds of families plan their shopping trips."

Lyft went public last month with a specific goal to become a major player in the healthcare industry by leveraging its transportation and technological capabilities. 

This program is an attempt by Lyft to curb the effects of 'food deserts,' one of the key social determinants of health affecting millions. By providing affordable, reliable transportation, Lyft hopes to assist consumers with greater food selections and ultimately improve population health.  

Related: BCBS Pilot Targets Chicago, Dallas 'Food Deserts' for Affordable Meals

The grocery access program, which had recently expanded to Atlanta, will now be available in 13 additional cities across the country, as well as in Ottawa and Toronto.

In a statement to HealthLeaders, Lyft pointed to the benefits from offering free rides to underserved communities.

The ridesharing company cited early results from an ongoing study conducted by the University of Southern California, AARP, and UnitedHealthcare that found seniors who participated in a three-month unlimited ride program reported a 90% increase in quality of life.

The grocery access program is far from Lyft's first foray into offering free rides as a way to build its healthcare business.

In February, Lyft extended its partnership with the Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) Institute to provide rides for medical appointments for BCBS Medicare Advantage (MA) members. This was followed by a similar deal for select Humana MA members.

In mid-March, Lyft announced a similar partnership with Indianapolis-based primary care provider Oak Street Health to transport Medicare patients to appointments at the company's four facilities across the city.

Related: Lyft, Oak Street Health Launch Indianapolis Initiative

Lyft's announcement comes two weeks after its rival Uber registered for its long-awaited initial public offering, with a similar aim to utilize ridesharing services for a larger healthcare play. 

Jack O'Brien is the finance editor at HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.

Photo credit: Lyft Van, Detroit, Michigan, USA-March 29, 2019: Lyft Van outside Detroit Lyft Office in downtown Detroit, March 29, 2019, Detroit, MI USA - Image / Editorial credit: Linda Parton / Shutterstock.com


KEY TAKEAWAYS

The grocery access program provides families in underserved communities with $2.50 shared rides through Lyft to nearby grocery stories.

The expansion will now make the program available in 13 additional cities across the country, as well as in Ottawa and Toronto.

Lyft's announcement comes two weeks after its rival Uber registered for its long-awaited initial public offering.


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