Delivering to deserts: New data reveals the geography of digital access to food in the US
Digital food access could be a game-changer for people who struggle with brick-and-mortar food access barriers, including those living in disinvested areas historically defined as “food deserts” and individuals facing mobility challenges or time constraints. Using data on delivery zones from four of the most prominent digital food delivery companies and platforms, we find:
- Digital food services are now available to almost all people. 93 percent of America’s population has access to rapidly delivered fresh groceries or prepared foods through at least one of the four platforms.
- Delivery zones reach most Americans living in traditionally defined “food deserts.” 90 percent of people living in low-income, low-access tracts have at least one digital food access option, yet these service maps still leave nearly 4.5 million food desert residents outside of delivery zones.
- Broadband is a frequent barrier to digital food access. The household broadband adoption rate across the US is 86 percent—lower than digital delivery availability. In some cases, such as rural and isolated neighborhoods, the lack of broadband and delivery service is aligned. In many metropolitan areas, however, broadband adoption gaps are a distinct geographic barrier to digital food access.
Delivering to deserts: New data reveals the geography of digital access to food in the U.S.