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Instacart Health Partnership Focuses on Food Insecurity in Chicago

Chicago’s Wellness West will use Instacart Fresh Funds to help people facing food insecurity access nutritious food through grocery stipends.

A new partnership between Instacart and Wellness West tailored for food insecurity will help forge deeper inroads into the healthcare space for the grocery store technology company.

In particular, the Chicago-based Wellness West will leverage the Fresh Funds developed and unveiled by Instacart in March of 2023. Members at Wellness West, a coalition of health and safety-net organizations in Chicago’s West Side, will have access to a monthly grocery stipend of $79 via Instacart’s Fresh Funds.

Members can use the Fresh Funds and other food benefit programs, including SNAP, to buy nutritious foods.

Wellness West said the partnership will be instrumental in the organization’s efforts to drive health equity.

"We are very pleased to be joining forces with Instacart to advance the cause of health equity," Misty Drake, executive director at Wellness West and the vice president of Client Serves and Growth for Medical Home Network, said in a press release.

"For the communities we serve, a whole person model of care that addresses social factors such as access to healthy food is essential,” Drake added. “With this partnership, Instacart's state-of-the-art consumer-tech platform is brought to the mission of helping people across the West Side who are facing significant barriers to healthy dietary options.”

This partnership is a part of Instacart’s relatively new products tailored for healthcare providers that the company announced in March of 2023. The company designed Instacart Health to help healthcare providers create produce prescriptions and other food programs for patients in need, including those with diet-related illness or with food insecurity.

The Fresh Funds, which Wellness West is utilizing, are Instacart stipends that patients can use to purchase groceries directly via Instacart. Patients using Fresh Funds consent to their purchase history being sent back to their provider.

Instacart Health also includes Care Carts, which are custom-designed grocery hauls that providers can send to patients. Providers can build the cart based on dietary restrictions patients may have based on a certain chronic illness.

Providers also have access to virtual storefronts, shoppable recipes, and nutrition lists via Instacart Health.

Wellness West said there is a specific need for these types of grocery services. In the Chicago metro area, 16 percent of all households, 22 percent of households with children, and 29 percent of Black households experience food insecurity.

Food insecurity is largely driven by income, with around a third of folks who are worried about running out of food saying it’s due to lack of money. Another quarter said their worries about food security stem from transportation access and assistance, Wellness West said, citing a health risk assessment it conducted last year.

"For too many Chicagoans, choices about what to eat are limited by access and affordability," Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson said in the press release. "My administration is committed to advancing innovative solutions and supporting public-private partnerships to address these food inequities. It's inspiring to see Wellness West and Instacart partnering to address these challenges and ensure more West Side residents can access and afford the nutritious food they deserve."

Having a program that can more directly connect patients to groceries will be important for filling in the gaps, especially considering the prevalence of food deserts in the Chicago area. Citing data from the Food Empowerment Project, Wellness West said that more than 500,000 Chicago residents live in a food desert. Most of those people live on the South and West Sides.

"Everyone should have reliable access to healthy and nutritious food, but today, far too many communities experience nutrition insecurity. Through Instacart Health, we're using the power of our technology to bridge the gap and ensure more families can put wholesome foods on their tables," Sarah Mastrorocco, vice president and general manager of Instacart Health, stated publicly.

"We're proud to partner with Wellness West to help families on the West Side of Chicago overcome barriers to access and get the foods they need to support their health and well-being."

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