Program that gives residents rides to groceries expands to city’s west side

A pilot program that provides subsidized Lyft rides to and from grocery stores to residents on the east side of Indianapolis is expanding to the west side, community leaders announced Wednesday.

The Lyft Grocery Access pilot program, which launched on the far-east side in July, will also serve residents living in the area bounded by 42nd Street on the north, St. Clair Street on the south, Meridian Street on the east and Riverside Drive on the west.

The program provides $1 each-way Lyft rides to and from grocery stores for families living in areas with limited food access. The rides will be subsidized by the city. Residents will be able to choose from several grocery stores, including Cleo’s Bodega, Kroger on Michigan Street and East 16th Street, Save A Lot, Saraga International Grocery and Safeway.

Participants, who can sign up for the program at groceryaccessindy.com, are eligible for two Lyft rides per week. They request rides through the Lyft app, and drivers are not notified that the rider is a participant in the subsidized program. The driver receives standard payment.

To date, the program has provided more than 1,000 rides to 130 residents in the east-side area bordered by North Franklin Road on the west, East 46th Street on the north, German Church Road on the east and 38th Street on the south.

City-County Council President Vop Osili, who represents the west side, said as many as 210,000 Indianapolis residents live in a food desert, meaning they have limited or uncertain access to adequate food. Food deserts are areas abandoned by major grocers, making it difficult to buy fresh produce and healthy foods.

He said while city leaders look for long-term solutions, short-term efforts like the Lyft pilot program are also necessary.

The program is one in a series of initiatives first announced by Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett earlier this year that are aimed at addressing limited food access and food insecurity.

Over the summer, the Indianapolis City-County Council OKed spending $580,000 on four programs pitched by Hogsett’s administration: $140,000 on the pilot program with Lyft; $175,000 to launch a “food compass” app to help residents find the nearest grocery stores or food pantries; and $65,000 to send “food advocates” to a 12-week training program.

The 2020 city-county budget includes an additional $500,000 investment to develop a multi-year plan to address food issues in Indianapolis as well as to launch the Indy Food Fund, a neighborhood-based grant program.

“The Lyft Grocery Access pilot is one part of our city’s holistic efforts to create a more equitable city in terms of access to healthy food,” Hogsett said in written comments. “… We are partnering with community organizations in order to tackle food insecurity from all angles.”

Lyft operates a similar program in more than 20 cities. The first one was first launched in Washington, D.C., almost a year ago.

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