CBIA BizCast: DoorDash Delivers for Communities in Need
If you’ve ever ordered food online, chances are you know about DoorDash.
The online food ordering and delivery service first launched in 2013, but grew in popularity during the pandemic.
But while most know DoorDash through food delivery, the company does much more than that for more than 6,000 Connecticut merchant partners.
“We help with customer acquisition, with data insight and analytics, with payment processing you name, it really to kind of grow their business,” said Christina Kennedy, DoorDash’s government relations lead for New England.
Kennedy said the company works with a lot of mom and pop businesses to help create their online presence.
DoorDash also provides loans to merchants in need, and supports women, Black, and Latino-owned businesses.
Having an Impact
Kennedy said that support helps business owners get off the ground and stay afloat, especially through challenges like the pandemic.
“It’s been exciting to watch them grow throughout the pandemic and to be part of the team,” she said.
Throughout the pandemic, DoorDash not only grew in popularity for customers, but also as a flexible employment opportunity to be a delivery driver, known as Dashers.
“That’s a resident here in Connecticut that wants to have a flexible schedule to earn when they want, how they want, where they want as well,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy said DoorDash also found itself in a unique position to help address food insecurity.
“Food access is something that’s always been an issue, but the pandemic really accelerated that,” she said.
Project DASH is an initiative that launched in 2018, but grew during the pandemic.
It was first conceived by employees as a way to have a social impact and to empower and grow communities.
The last-mile delivery service allows organizations like food banks to use DoorDash for their deliveries.
“Essentially, a food bank or food pantry can say, ‘Hey, every Tuesday and Thursday, we would like a Dasher to come pick up our senior brown bags, our grocery boxes, whatever it may be, and deliver to the doorstep of someone in need,’” Kennedy said.
Since launching, Project DASH has delivered more than 400,000 meals in Connecticut.
Kennedy said there are several factors that contribute to the growing success of the program.
“It helps reduce the stigma when you’re asking for help because it looks like any other DoorDash delivery,” she said.
“Also we found there’s been so many transportation barriers with folks not being able to have an Uber or Lyft, or a car, or a bus to be able to access the food pantry in time.”
And the benefit isn’t just for those receiving the deliveries, but Dashers as well.
DoorDash ensures that Dashers are paid for their deliveries.
They also have the knowledge that they did something for their communities.
Some Dashers were once refugees or in domestic violence situations, and needed some of those same services.
“They now feel that they’re now giving back right through doing this delivery to someone else that’s in need,” she said.
In Connecticut, DoorDash partners with statewide organizations like Connecticut Foodshare, as well as local organizations.
“We can, of course, assist with resources, but we don’t have the relationships that they do and we don’t pretend to,” Kennedy said.
One of their most success partnerships is with Whalers Helping Whalers, a New London-based group working to end food insecurity.
“They’re the ones that actually know the need,” Kennedy said. “They’re the ones that actually have the one-on-one relationships.”
DoorDash is now also expanding its reach, thanks to the White House’s Conference on Hunger Nutrition and Health.
“President Biden and Vice President Harris have asked private organizations, ‘Can you rise to the occasion here, and can you assist with hunger issues?’” Kennedy said.
Working with the White House
Through that call to action, DoorDash partnered with nearly 20 mayors nationally, including Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin on what it calls community credit, giving gift cards to food banks, shelters and other organizations.
The gift cards aren’t just for food, but also things like toiletries.
“We’ve actually allocated $35,000 worth of gift cards for the city of Hartford and gifted that to them in a partnership through this conference on hunger,” Kennedy said.
“And we’re looking forward to being a resource to them as they look to how to integrate that into community groups and to people and our neighbors in need within Hartford.”
Kennedy said they’re looking at ways to grow programs like Project DASH, since the need is only increasing.
“We’re here to stay and we’re here to integrate hyper locally, and to really make these one-on-one connections with these community organizations,” she said.
“Because we do have the logistics and we do have the social impact resources to solve for these problems around food insecurity.”
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