For students searching for affordable, fresh and sustainably sourced food, a new resource has become available in the Elm City. Actual Food — a New Haven-based same-day grocery delivery service — is on its way with a pilot program exclusively for Yale students starting next semester.
The service hopes to eradicate food deserts — geographical areas where inexpensive, nutritious food is difficult to access without a car — by stationing pick-up kiosks in accessible local hubs and stocking them with grocery orders that can be collected the day they are ordered. The Actual Food online ordering platform will also function as a nutrition coach while providing consumers with the broad offerings of a farmers market and the familiarity of everyday store brands. Actual Food founder Greg Grinberg told the News his company’s inaugural target consumer will be Yale graduate students since its kiosks will be located at on-campus graduate dormitories Helen Hadley Hall and E.S. Harkness Hall.
“Our highest aspiration is to be a lab of behavioral scientists and nutrition scientists working alongside hardware and software engineers singularly dedicated to reinventing grocery retail in the best possible way — in service of public health, the environment and social justice,” Grinberg said.
Actual Food specifically responds to what Grinberg described as a “public health crisis of unprecedented proportion,” in which the majority of chronic disease in the United States can be traced back to the food Americans consume. Grinberg said he does not view this as a failure of personal responsibility but, rather, a systemic failure through which the food retail system promotes the purchase of unhealthy food.
He noted that since 60 percent of the items Americans buy in grocery stores are impulse purchases, marketing strategies grocery stores employ have a huge impact on America’s diet.
Actual Food Director of Communications Elizabeth Beaucham said the company also provides an environmentally sustainable solution to the food desert epidemic.
Grinberg explained that since 3 percent of the world’s carbon footprint is caused by consumers driving to and from grocery stores, placing a competitive fresh-food store within walking distance of its core customers could help reduce this global footprint.
Beaucham explained that the pick-up kiosks cut the cost of individual deliveries and makes it cost effective for Actual Food to provide low-cost food in food deserts, which include many neighborhoods of New Haven.
Grinberg said his vision of 21st-century grocery retail involves free same-day grocery delivery to people from all socioeconomic backgrounds, specifically those in low-income communities or without cars.
New Haven resident Matthew House said he believes this program will appeal to Yale students since most do not have cars on campus and because it is difficult to find the time to make the trek to New Haven grocery stores. Beaucham, also a resident of New Haven, explained how onerous it is to walk to and from local market Edge of the Woods, roughly a mile from central campus, with bags of groceries.
“Grocery services are good for bulk orders,” Jacob McAuliffe GRD ’17 said. “[Which is good for] grad students living in HHH — we have to make food for ourselves — as we come from different backgrounds and have different ideas of what food is.”
Actual Food has an online sign-up for students interested in taking part in their pilot program.