NOTEBOOK – Could Hy-Vee’s online locker service serve residents in food deserts?
KATHY A. BOLTEN Jul 10, 2019 | 3:45 pm
2 min read time381 wordsBusiness Record Insider, The Insider Notebook
The expansion of Hy-Vee Aisles Online locker service beyond the chain’s brick and mortar buildings has prompted Des Moines city staffers to ask whether the units could help address the issue of food deserts in the community.
(Food deserts are areas populated with large percentages of low-income residents with poor access to healthy and affordable food. Studies show that much of central and northeast Des Moines are considered food deserts.)
Hy-Vee has begun partnering with area businesses to place its red, climate-controlled grocery pickup lockers in parking lots and parking garages. In February, it placed a locker on the campus of St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids and in April, one was put in a parking lot at the UnityPoint Health-Iowa Methodist Medical Center campus in Des Moines. The lockers allow Hy-Vee to deliver online orders to the units where workers, patients’ families, and surrounding neighborhood residents can then pick up their groceries.
The West Des Moines-based retailer is also working with Principal Financial Group and the city of Des Moines to place a unit in a parking garage at Seventh and Center streets, Mike Ludwig, the city’s planning administrator, recently told members of the Plan and Zoning Commission.
One concern, Ludwig said during the June 20 meeting, is what will happen when other retailers want to install similar units.
“Pretty soon you would see these for each company lining the [parking] lots,” he said. The issue prompted city planners start to ask where else the lockers – and potentially those of other retailers – could be placed, he said.
“Clearly, we have food deserts in our community so we wondered whether we should talk with [Hy-Vee] about partnering with our libraries,” Ludwig said. “Citizens could get their groceries in areas where there’s not a grocery store… Maybe that’s a solution for how we can accommodate these [areas].”
Tina Pothhoff, Hy-Vee’s vice president of communications, wrote in an email that the retailer with communities and businesses in the eight states it is located to install grocery pickup lockers in parking lots and garages and other areas. She wrote Hy-Vee officials are open to considering installing the lockers in libraries as well.