GENEVA – When people see DoorDash delivering food, they might think the recipient is wealthy.
But the food delivery company and the Northern Illinois Food Bank in Geneva would correct that notion as a misconception.
“People think the DoorDash option is luxurious. But we are saying, this is essential to these community food programs that are trying to reach neighbors in need,” food bank spokeswoman Katie Heraty said.
The Northern Illinois Food Bank serves a 13-county region: Kane, DeKalb, Kendall, Will, McHenry, Lake, DuPage, Boone, Grundy, Kankakee, Ogle, Stephenson and Winnebago.
DoorDash began delivering for the food bank in May 2021 in a partnership called Project DASH.
By September 2022, Dashers – as the DoorDash delivery people are called – had made 40,000 deliveries throughout the food bank’s region.
Since then, Project DASH has made more than 90,000 deliveries of more than 2.5 million meals directly to the doors of people facing food insecurity. Nationwide, Project Dash has made over 5 million deliveries for food banks.
These DoorDash recipients might have barriers preventing them from going to the food bank.
“I talked to a woman who is divorced, just had brain surgery and five foster kids,” Heraty said. “She did not have enough gas to get to the grocery store and take the kids to school. So she takes the kids to school and depends on Door Dash to bring the food.”
Recipients order online and Door Dash delivers either straight from the food bank or through an agency in the network, Heraty said.
Other obstacles include their budget. Or they’re elderly or disabled and can’t carry the boxes. Or they don’t have a car or have no other access to transportation.
Another other obstacle is their desire for anonymity.
Some people just cannot reach out to the food pantry themselves because of the stigma of needing assistance, Heraty said. DoorDash delivering food allows them to remain anonymous while receiving food.
“This is essential to these community food programs that are trying to reach neighbors in need who cannot make it to the pantry,” Heraty said. “It’s essential. … It’s not just a luxury. It’s something that is needed and it’s effective in solving one of the obstacles.”
What is especially notable during September – which is the food bank’s Hunger Action Month – is that DoorDash commissioned a study from the Urban Institute about the program’s effectiveness.
The report analyzed data from Project DASH partners and clients and found that home delivery addressed several challenges, according to a news release about the report.
For one, it reduced stigma and enhanced convenience for hard-to-reach clients, according to the report.
But the report also found that home delivery of charitable food – which expanded over the course of the pandemic – is now a permanent part of the food access ecosystem.
The home delivery system also needs sustainable funding solutions, according to the report. DoorDash drivers are paid as they would for any other delivery through an annual grant to the food bank, Maeven Sipes said in text message. Sipes is the chief philanthropy officer for the food bank.
“When that (the grant) runs out, the Food Bank pays a portion of each delivery with DoorDash subsidizing the rest,” according to Sipes’ text message.
Some other key findings from anti-hunger organizations is that partnering with DoorDash allowed them to build capacity for other services.
Also, these organizations reported home delivery brought food to clients with chronic health conditions and helped others who were taking care of someone who was ill.
Food insecurity increased
The food bank reported that food insecurity in the region has increased.
The need for food assistance is up 30% – 375,000 people were served per month last year over the 285,000 served in 2021 and 70% pre-pandemic in 2019 to 500,000 clients currently being served per month, Heraty said.
The reasons for the increase in need include inflation, rising food prices, gas and the decrease in emergency government benefits of SNAP and Medicaid.
As part of its Hunger Awareness Month promotion, cash donations to the food bank will be tripled in a matching gift, Heraty said, so every $1 donated will be double-matched to $24 worth of groceries.
Daniel Riff, senior manager of Drive Government and Nonprofit at DoorDash, said in a news release that the report highlights how the home delivery service helped reach more people experiencing food insecurity.
“Our commitment through Project DASH to broaden food access wouldn’t be possible without our partners like Northern Illinois Food Bank, who are leading the fight to end food insecurity in their communities,” Riff said in the release. “We’re grateful for our continued collaboration with Northern Illinois Food Bank to broaden access, and we look forward to continuing our work together to reach even more people experiencing food insecurity.”
For tips on how to participate during Hunger Action Month, visit solvehungertoday.org.
“Solving hunger is a community-wide effort and we can’t do it alone,” Sipes said in an email. “Hunger Action Month is a great way for the community to get involved and join us to ensure every neighbor has the food they need to thrive.”