Online Grocer Peapod Takes on 'Food Deserts'

Healthy Families Project looks at ways to improve access to better-quality foods to lower the risk of diabetes and fight obesity in areas lacking mainstream grocers

Research to target communities where efforts will have the greatest impact on children

Mar 09, 2010, 08:00 ET from Peapod

SKOKIE, Ill., March 9 /PRNewswire/ -- Peapod, the country's leading Internet grocer, has teamed up with sustainable communities group Neighbor Capital and food desert researcher Mari Gallagher to examine ways to expand delivery to communities where fresh, quality food is hard to come by due to lack of reputable grocery stores.

The Healthy Families Project, taking a page from First Lady Michelle Obama's 2010 Focus on Healthy Eating and Healthy Families, will apply Gallagher's groundbreaking research to determine which block-level improvements would 1) most likely reduce diabetes, 2) positively impact the greatest number of children and 3) positively impact the greatest population overall.

Peapod plans to release its findings during a neighborhood forum this spring. The forum will focus on health and nutrition and introduce Peapod to communities with limited access to mainstream grocers, as well as to job opportunities at Peapod.

"Residents living in food deserts are far more greatly impacted by obesity and food-related illnesses such as diabetes. There is an opportunity for Peapod to expand into new markets to respond to urgent needs and effect better outcomes for our children," said Peapod Senior Vice President and General Manager Scott DeGraeve. "We owe it to people living in food deserts to get involved."

Some of Gallagher's early findings include mapping of the top 100 city blocks with the greatest opportunities for intervention in three zip codes: 60636, 60644 and 60628.

"The families at greatest risk would likely be those living in those 100 blocks," Gallagher said. "There could be other determinants at play but based on our preliminary analysis, these 100 blocks are the place to focus the lens as we continue drilling into the data."

In 2006, Gallagher released the groundbreaking report Examining the Impact of Food Deserts on Public Health in Chicago, which identified more than 630,000 Chicagoans living in "food deserts." In 2009, The Chicago Food Desert Progress Report showed Chicago's food desert has shrunk by 1.4 square miles, benefiting nearly 24,000 people, but that more than 600,000 residents continue to reside in food deserts, most of them African American. The reports are available at

Gallagher will be speaking at the FamilyFarmed Expo and Food Summit March 11-13 at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The forum will include a daylong conference for community groups on how to create economic opportunities in the urban food movement and discuss ways government and business can respond to pressing human needs.

Neighbor Capital is a social business enterprise focused on developing scalable solutions key to sustainable, thriving local communities.

About Peapod LLC

Founded in 1989 as a smart shopping option for busy people, Peapod today stands as the country's leading Internet grocer, serving 22 U.S. markets in communities in the states of Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Maryland, District of Columbia, Virginia, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey. The Skokie, Ill.-based company, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Royal Ahold in The Netherlands, has achieved over 16 million deliveries since its late 1980s inception. For more information on Peapod, call 1.800.5.PEAPOD (573.2763); e-mail or visit