- Brookdale ShopRite Inc. has become the first food retailer to receive a grant under a New Jersey state program designed to expand grocery delivery options in food deserts by funding the installation of temperature-controlled lockers, according to a Monday press release
- The grocer will use the Food Retail Innovation in Delivery Grant (FRIDG) money to install a locker at the Shani Baraka Women’s Resource Center in the South Ward of Newark, New Jersey, where residents will be able to retrieve their grocery orders.
- Despite New Jersey continuing to expand SNAP online purchasing, food accessibility remains an issue because many residents of areas designated as food deserts do not have reliable access to grocery delivery services.
Residents will be able to place online grocery orders, including orders eligible for purchase with SNAP benefits, from the store and have the items delivered to the lockers. Shoppers are then able to retrieve their groceries at their convenience. The grocer will also waive delivery fees for orders delivered to the lockers, according to the announcement.
The $250,000 the grocer is receiving through the FRIDG Program will cover between 30% and 50% of the project’s cost, according to the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA).
Any food retailer with at least one physical location in the state can apply for a grant to purchase and install the temperature-controlled lockers in one of New Jersey’s designated food deserts. All eligible companies must be able to accept SNAP benefits for online orders.
With 50 food desert communities in New Jersey, the “Newark South” food desert community has a population of nearly 43,000 and is the third most acute food desert in the state, per NJEDA findings.
In 2020, the New Jersey Department of Human Services launched a pilot program allowing SNAP recipients to use their benefits to purchase groceries online and, currently, 19 retailers have enable SNAP online purchasing, according to the announcement. However, the NJEDA noted many residents living in food desert areas are still unable to receive grocery deliveries due to lack of a reliable delivery location, work schedules, family obligations or housing insecurity.
“The FRIDG lockers are intended to provide [food desert community] residents with a safe, convenient location where their grocery orders – including fresh produce and dairy – will stay fresh until they are retrieved at a convenient time,” the NJEDA stated in the announcement.
Expanding SNAP’s reach has been an ongoing trend throughout 2023. In June, Alaska became the final state to join the USDA’s SNAP online purchasing program, making the e-commerce payment capability available nationwide.
Grocers have also worked to expand SNAP’s reach. For example, Kroger began accepting SNAP as a payment method for pickup and delivery orders chainwide in October.