United Way Worldwide is expanding Ride United, its transportation access initiative, to launch a “last mile” home delivery program that brings food and supplies to vulnerable populations, in response to the COVID-19 crisis and rising levels of hunger in communities across the US.
United Way is partnering with DoorDash to expand Ride United to include food delivery, starting in eight communities: Akron, OH; Baltimore, MD; Hartford, CT; New Orleans; New York City; Tallahassee and Ft. Lauderdale, FL; and Ventura County, CA. This partnership leverages DoorDash’s last mile logistics platform, including its fleet of Dashers, to power deliveries from local food banks, food pantries and other distribution points to senior citizens, low-income families and those who can’t leave home, providing meals to those in need and flexible earnings opportunities to Dashers in these unprecedented times.
Launched in 2019, United Way’s Ride United leverages local United Ways and 211 agencies in 27 cities across 17 states to provide more than 25,000 rides so far to job interviews, medical appointments, grocery stores, food pantries and more. The program is facilitated by 211, the vital service that connects millions of people to resources and assistance in the US and Canada every year.
Since launching their “last mile” partnership in April, DoorDash, United Way and 211 have already delivered more than 15,000 food boxes to people in need. The “last mile” represents the last hurdle in getting food to people who are stuck at home during COVID-19, whether that’s because of health considerations or lack of public transit. In collaboration with local agencies, food banks and grocery partners, local United Ways and 211s are identifying available food for people who can’t travel and arranging for deliveries powered by DoorDash.
The philanthropic and in-kind contributions from The Rockefeller Foundation, DoorDash, the Albertsons Companies Foundation and the Why Not You Foundation, led by Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Ciara, is paving the way for more deliveries in more cities in coming weeks, including the Pacific Northwest. United Way invites other philanthropic partners to join these efforts.
In Akron, United Way of Summit County has been flooded with calls for help since the COVID-19 pandemic forced thousands to stay home – and the number of people in need of food has quadrupled. In the first few weeks of the Ride United expansion in April, United Way and DoorDash worked together to deliver more than 12 tons of food – which translates to some 19,000 meals.
“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, United Way has been doing what we’ve always done when communities struggle – help people respond, recover and rebuild,” said Brian Gallagher, President and CEO of United Way Worldwide. “Yet with individuals and families facing ongoing financial challenges, we know their needs will continue, especially when it comes to putting food on the table. We appreciate The Rockefeller Foundation, DoorDash, Albertsons and Ciara and Russell Wilson joining us to help more people access food through Ride United. Solving problems sustainably takes partnership and by working together we can make sure every person gets the support they need in this difficult time.”
Levels of hunger in the United States have risen dramatically during the pandemic: more than one in five households are now considered food insecure and nearly one in five children are not getting enough to eat, according to the Brookings Institution. Calls to 211 for help with food have quadrupled: of some 70,000 calls a day (an all-time high for 211), nearly half are related to food in many communities.
“We’re proud to support United Way in this important initiative to help vulnerable communities in need and which builds on the Foundation’s longstanding commitment to increasing equitable access to healthy and nourishing food for all,” said Dr. Rajiv J. Shah, President of The Rockefeller Foundation. “We will continue to support efforts to meet this current moment of crisis as well as to find longer term and sustainable solutions for hunger in the United States.”
To address the increasing needs, DoorDash has accelerated the development of its local logistics infrastructure to support the scale required to power the delivery of food and essential supplies to those in need. “DoorDash’s mission is grounded in building technology to solve real problems and empower local communities,” said Tony Xu, DoorDash’s CEO/Co-Founder. “In the face of COVID-19, a tremendous need has emerged for last-mile deliveries of food and supplies, particularly for seniors, the immuno-compromised, low-income students and families that are at risk. We’re proud to partner with United Way to accelerate our shared efforts to serve our communities during this critical time.”
Ciara and Russell Wilson and their Why Not You Foundation have joined the effort to help raise resources for the program and awareness of the campaign. “Through our Why Not You Foundation, we have always strived to empower change in the world, especially during times like this. Frontline workers in every field from medicine to food supply deserve our gratitude right now,” according to a statement from the Wilsons. “That’s why we wanted to give our support to organizations like United Way and 211 for their sacrifice and hard work in delivering food to people in need through the Ride United program.”
Albertsons Companies Foundation will work with local United Ways to support the initiative in Safeway and Albertsons stores in Oregon and Washington state and Vons, Pavilions and Albertsons stores in Southern California.
Those interested in supporting Ride United or learning more can visit UnitedWay.org/RideUnited. People who need help finding available local resources, including food, can call 211 or visit 211.org for more information.