Peapod Aims to Eradicate Food Deserts

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Peapod Aims to Eradicate Food Deserts

Internet grocer Peapod has joined forces with Chicago-based sustainable communities group Neighbor Capital and food desert researcher Mari Gallagher to look at ways to expand delivery to communities where a dearth of full-service grocery stores makes it difficult to obtain quality fresh food.

The resulting Healthy Families Project, inspired by First Lady Michelle Obama’s 2010 Focus on Healthy Eating and Healthy Families, will apply Gallagher’s innovative research to figure out which block-level improvements would most likely lower the incidence of diabetes, positively affect the most children and positively affect the greatest population in general.

Peapod plans to reveal its findings during a neighborhood forum this spring. The forum will address health and nutrition and introduce the e-grocer to neighborhoods with limited access to mainstream grocers. Residents in these areas will learn about job opportunities at Peapod.

“Residents living in food deserts are far more greatly impacted by obesity and food-related illnesses such as diabetes,” noted the Skokie, Ill.-based company’s SVP and general manager, Scott DeGraeve. “There is an opportunity for Peapod to expand into new markets to respond to urgent needs and effect better outcomes for our children. We owe it to people living in food deserts to get involved.”

Gallagher’s early research includes mapping the top 100 Chicago city blocks with the greatest opportunities for intervention in three ZIP codes: 60636, 60644 and 60628.

“The families at greatest risk would likely be those living in those 100 blocks,” explained Gallagher. “There could be other determinants at play, but based on our preliminary analysis, these 100 blocks are the place to focus the lens as we continue drilling into the data.”

In 2006, Gallagher issued the report “Examining the Impact of Food Deserts on Public Health in Chicago,” which found that over 630,000 Windy City residents lived in food deserts. In 2009, The “Chicago Food Desert Progress Report” discovered that the city’s food desert has shrunk by 1.4 square miles, benefiting almost 24,000 people, but over 600,000 individuals, most of them African-American, still reside in food deserts. The reports are available at

A wholly owned subsidiary of Royal Ahold in the Netherlands, Peapod serves 22 U.S. markets in communities in the states of Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Maryland, District of Columbia, Virginia, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey.