Grocery delivery company Instacart launches new health division to expand access to nutritious food

Online grocery delivery company Instacart is launching a new business initiative aimed at expanding access to nutritious food for underserved communities. 

Announced in collaboration with the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health this week, Instacart plans to roll out new products, strategic partnerships, research and policy advocacy commitments to help increase food security, make food more affordable and make it easier for consumers to make healthier choices.

"Instacart has become a staple in millions of households, which puts us at the heart of the relationship that people have with food, and therefore, their health. We have a responsibility to use the power of our platform, products and partnerships to expand access to nutritious food and improve health outcomes," said Fidji Simo, CEO of Instacart in a statement.

Hunger and health problems in the U.S. are complex and require cross-sector collaboration, Simo said.

"At Instacart, we're building the technologies that can help many organizations—from healthcare providers, insurers, nonprofits, employers, and health experts—give more people access to fresh, nutritious foods with dignity, speed, and convenience. We know we can't solve these issues alone and we're honored to be among those participating at the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health," she said.

More than one in 10 people in the United States don't have access to reliable nutritious food according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Poor nutrition is a leading cause of illness in the US, taking 600,000 lives a year from maladies such as diabetes and heart disease, according to the USDA.

Instacart plans to focus on three pillars: help increase nutrition security, make healthy choices easier for consumers and expand the role that food can play in improving health outcomes.

The company plans to work with healthcare providers and payers to make prescribed meals and grocery stipends available through its app.

A new "Fresh Funds" product will enable organizations, including nonprofits, insurance companies and employers, to give people funds to buy nutritious food from grocery retailers on the app. Organizations will be able to dictate and limit spend to certain food categories, like produce, for example, to incentivize healthy habits and give people access to healthy foods that may otherwise be cost-prohibitive, according to the company.

Instacart plans to launch a Fresh Funds pilot with Partnership for a Healthier America starting in Indianapolis, with the goal of expanding nationwide in 2023.

The company also aims to launch Fresh Funds pilots with a range of public and private sector organizations in the coming months to enable them to further scale their food prescription programs.

Another new program, called Care Carts, will enable healthcare providers and caregivers to order groceries for patients with diet-related illnesses. 

The company is working with digital nutrition platform Good Measures in partnership with WellCare of Kentucky to make food prescription programs available to Medicaid members who have been screened for high blood pressure.

“Some may see grocery delivery as a luxury, but it is really a necessity, especially for people with low incomes who often have limited transportation options and time," said Corey Ewing, CEO and Plan President of WellCare of Kentucky in a statement. "The ability to offer nutritious grocery delivery to Medicaid members who need it most via Instacart’s Care Carts and our partnership with Good Measures is truly a game changer. I’m thrilled that our Medicaid members are getting access to this essential service - it’s a benefit everyone should have.”

Instacart also will work with hospital-at-home solution provider Medically Home; food solutions and care management platform NourishedRx in partnership with a number of health plans and digital nutrition services Season Health and Foodsmart on food prescription programs.

The company's app has been updated with "health tags" to provide consumers with 23 item-level labels, like low-salt, low-sugar, keto and gluten-free to help consumers with food sensitivities and dietary restrictions make choices that best fit their needs, according to the company.

Instacart also is partnering with weight care clinic Found to make the company's nutrition guidance and recipes shoppable via Instacart. 

Other commitments the company announced today include working with the USDA to expand EBT Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) payment access to Instacart grocery partners in all 50 states in 2023, with the goal of expanding EBT SNAP access to all Instacart grocery partners by 2030. 

By next year, Instacart plans to enable customers to shop and pay for grocery items with their Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits, a government cash assistance program that helps low-income families pay for household items like diapers and toilet paper. Families will also be able to use TANF benefits to cover service and delivery fees on Instacart, which aren't currently covered by EBT SNAP benefits.

Instacart also announced an advocacy arm, called Instacart Health Policy Agenda, with plans to work with policymakers, researchers, nonprofit leaders, private sector partners and other stakeholders to help shape and enact policies at the federal, state, and local levels to increase equitable access to nutritious food in underserved urban and rural areas.

The Biden administration on Wednesday announced a sweeping initiative to end hunger and decrease diet-related diseases by 2030. As part of this effort, private and public sector organizations are committing more than $8 billion to reach that goal.

This week, the Biden administration announced sweeping efforts to end hunger and reduce diet-related disease by 2030 and close disparities among the communities that are impacted most.