retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Here's an excerpt from an "On Tech" newsletter posted by the New York Times and written by Shira Ovide:

"I’ve written about the downsides of companies that bring groceries or prepared food to our doors, like Instacart and Uber Eats. App-based fresh food deliveries take a toll on our neighborhoods and impose punishing demands on workers.

"But today I want to focus on a positive aspect of delivery apps. Newly published research from the Brookings Institution found that app companies are making fresh food available to millions of lower-income Americans who can’t easily buy it in person.

"While the researchers acknowledge problems with food delivery apps, the two analyses published Wednesday are largely a counterpoint to the notion that these services are mainly ways for relatively affluent people to save time and avoid hassle while inflicting a high cost on our communities. Delivery apps may be that, but they are also democratizing both access to and purchases of fresh food.

"Broadly, the Brookings research is a validation of the notion that good can come from technological change, and a call to action to shape emerging technologies to better serve all Americans."

Ovide goes on:

"The message from the research is that policymakers and the public should treat these apps not as novel curiosities, but as a part of the U.S. food system, one which should serve all of us and take into consideration our communities, our workforces, the environment and the economy … Their policy suggestions included permitting food stamps to cover delivery fees and other added costs of online ordering, expanding pilot programs for other government food benefits to include online purchasing and experimenting with government subsidies for internet service, so that more people could have access.

"The Brookings analysis also said that more research is needed to understand the systemic effects of all types of digital change, including delivery apps, automation in agriculture and food warehouses, technology for tracking food safety and checkout computers in grocery stores.

"It’s a useful message. Technological change is not something that just happens to us. It requires smart and effective policy to harness technology and use it to achieve what we collectively want."

KC's View:

Really smart.  In some ways, who needs grocery delivery more than a single parent of limited means who is trying to balance work and family and make ends meet?  If systems can be created that are affordable and  that afford these parents the ability to do the important things that go into parenting, then that strikes me as a positive step in the right direction.