DoorDash president: ‘Food delivery made strides during the pandemic. Our next challenge is to help win the fight against food insecurity’

The pandemic officially ended with the expiration of the public health emergency, but for many people, COVID-19 wound down long ago. While we mourn lost lives and support those still suffering its longer-term impact, the terrifying days of an invisible, contagious, and deadly disease spreading unabated are behind us. Life has mostly returned to some kind of normal. Three in five Americans now believe the pandemic is over, according to recent data.

Amid the tragedy, COVID left valuable lessons. Even as masks, social distancing, and lockdowns fade away, other positive trends are poised to stick around if given the opportunity by lawmakers and regulators. Here are three worth keeping.

When the world first shut down, entrepreneurs did what they do best. They innovated. Eateries moved their tables outside to parking lots, streets, and sidewalks. To-go cocktails provided a much-needed revenue stream for restaurants.

Some practical measures are becoming permanent

According to the National Restaurant Association, 90% of operators who expanded outdoor seating plan to continue if allowed, and 84% of adults favor allowing restaurants to use outdoor spaces permanently. Customer demand has driven as many as 20 states to adopt legislation making safe delivery of to-go cocktails permanent.

Additional foot traffic preserves the spirit of community downtowns, especially during a time of increased concerns about the impact of work-from-home policies on cities. Los Angeles, Denver, and Atlanta are developing plans to make their expanded outdoor-dining programs permanent. Whether it’s alcohol on the go or outdoor dining, these developments are good for local economies and more jurisdictions around the country should follow suit.

E-commerce and delivery channels are here to stay

Businesses have come to rely on the platforms to compete, especially restaurants. Statistics from the National Restaurant Association indicate that two-thirds of consumers are more likely to order delivery in 2023 than in 2019. This has benefited parties across the board. Consumers enjoy having food and everyday items at their doorstep. Delivery workers earn extra income that fits their schedule. Businesses continue to harness the digital economy to grow in a competitive industry.

While inflation has eased from its painful highs, the latest consumer price index of 4.0% remains more than double the 2% target of the Federal Reserve. Higher prices have real-life consequences, especially in a food services industry with tight margins.

E-commerce can be an antidote. Squeezed by unreliable supply chains, restaurant owners reach new and wider audiences via delivery. Drivers enjoy flexibility as independent contractors to work as much as they want. A vast majority of these workers turn on their apps as a second source of income, including students, retirees, and parents. This type of flexible work offers a critical service to businesses and a valuable way to earn for millions of Americans. Lawmakers should embrace this growing segment of our economy and ensure workers continue to have access, choice, and opportunity.

COVID-19 exposed large gaps in our society

The pandemic laid bare the challenge of food access, especially for seniors and the immunocompromised. Local delivery helped break down barriers to food access, while also providing earnings opportunities for millions of people. Project DASH, our initiative that empowers food banks, food pantries, and other social impact organizations to leverage DoorDash logistics, helped ensure charitable food, meals for students, and even hurricane kits kept communities connected by powering millions of deliveries. 

By partnering with food banks and other charitable organizations, the food delivery sector helped ensure that food traveled to families in need–not the other way around. Even as the pandemic fades, hunger persists, especially for older Americans. In 2021, about 6 million Americans over 65–more than 10% of their population–were below the poverty line, according to the Census Bureau.

This year’s reauthorization of the Farm Bill provides a natural opportunity for Congress to support solutions that fight food insecurity. Lawmakers should work together to ensure we don’t lose pandemic-era gains in food access by empowering anti-hunger organizations and their public and private-sector partners to solve hunger in a way that best fits their community.

Without a doubt, the pandemic created loss, hardship, and financial headaches, but there have been silver linings: new policies and targeted investments have made a positive impact on people’s lives, particularly vulnerable populations.

As COVID-19 recedes, lawmakers have the opportunity to continue programs that can garner bipartisan support. Even in a highly polarized climate, these should be principles we can all rally around.

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