March 6, 2018

Enterprise New York Presents Urban Food Access Pilot at Yale Food Symposium

Presentation at Yale Food Symposium

Last week, Chloe Arnow of Enterprise’s New York office presented at the Fifth Annual Yale Food Systems Symposium about Enterprise’s Food Access and Affordability Pilot. Enterprise has partnered with the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) and the Fund for Public Housing to design this pilot that works with residents to test the ability of collective purchasing and online purchasing to address the barriers to food access that low-income communities face, and save residents time and money. The pilot is supported by a grant from Citi Community Development, along with project support from the CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute and Karen Karp and Partners. 

The panel, which also included Michael Garcia of the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Nutrition Project and Michelle McCabe, director of the Center for Food Equity and Economic Development at the Council of Churches of Greater Bridgeport, engaged in a dynamic discussion on fostering equity, health and agency through urban food access. 

The Food Access and Affordability Pilot is an opportunity to bring the housing and food sectors together, and to make the case that a new level of comprehensive thinking and non-traditional collaborations can break through barriers to create an equitable, just, and resilient food system. 

In New York City, low-income communities often experience a high incidence of both extreme food insecurity and diet-related health conditions. While grocery delivery services like FreshDirect can address both the issues of access to healthy food as well as affordability, low-income communities often face barriers to using these solutions. According to Frugality Is Hard to Afford, a Chicago Booth study, low-income shoppers are frequently unable to use the money-saving strategies of higher-income shoppers, such as buying in bulk and on sale.

Low-income shoppers cannot afford the upfront cost to buy in bulk or the cost of transporting the bulk purchase. The inability to time purchases flexibly excludes low-income shoppers from taking advantage of sales. Due to these factors, low-income shoppers are spending more of their scarce time shopping because they need to do so more frequently. They spend more time traveling to stores which are typically located far from their homes.

Despite these barriers, companies in the food industry have recognized the potential of tapping into the low-income market through innovations including a United States Department of Agriculture pilot to allow Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program purchases online. This is a critical moment to create a viable and resident-driven food access solution. 

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