Baltimore is expanding its virtual supermarket program, an innovative project that will bring fresh food to a city where one in four residents technically lives in a food desert, defined by an area’s limited or complete lack of access to high-quality, fresh food. When applied to cities, food deserts typically have plenty of fast food restaurants, but limited or no grocery options.
Baltimore’s virtual market program is also the first in the country to accept food stamps, which is especially significant because an estimated 780,000 Maryland residents receive SNAP benefits. The program, which is operated by the Baltimore City Health Department, allows resident to place online grocery orders through ShopRite.
“Nobody should have to worry about whether they can have a healthy and affordable and nutritious meal,” Dr. Leana Wen, Baltimore City Health Commissioner, told CBS. “Unfortunately, it’s our children, and also, it’s African-Americans who are disproportionately affected.”
The demographic makeup of Baltimore is at least 60 percent black, and a quarter of Baltimore residents are living below the national poverty level. At the moment, Baltimore’s virtual supermarket program has seven designated sites where residents can place grocery orders, and the city is working to expand the network to other areas of Baltimore.