(WASHINGTON, D.C.)-- In response to increasing food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic, Via, the company that provides digital infrastructure to power public mobility, and DC Greens, an advocacy organization that works to advance food justice and health equity in the nation’s capital, launched a partnership to address food security during Stay-at-Home orders. The partnership includes meal delivery for quarantined COVID-19 patients and grocery drop-off for food insecure students at a local school, prepared by premier catering company Occasions Caterers.
During COVID-19, DC Greens has leaned into its network of partners to match rising food needs with emergency relief. The organization tapped Via for help after identifying a need from Whitman-Walker Clinic, a non-profit community healthcare center, regarding the difficulty in accessing available food resources for patients under a 14-day quarantine due to suspected COVID-19 symptoms.
Whitman-Walker Clinic is a partner for DC Greens’ “Produce Rx”, one of the organization’s innovative programs that addresses food insecurity and access with the D.D. Department of Health. Th program enables medical professionals to prescribe fruit and vegetables to Medicaid patients experiencing diet-related chronic illnesses.
DC Greens and Via have come together to use Via’s technology, originally developed for on-demand public transit, to introduce a contactless food delivery platform. Via efficiently plans and routes delivery of grocery and produce boxes to reach vulnerable patients of Whitman-Walker who are unable to leave their homes. The Occasions Caterers boxes will feature produce and prepared meals for recipients. This partnership comes shortly after Occasions Caterers launched “Occasions Giving Kitchen,” a fundraising initiative that feeds underserved and at-risk Washingtonians throughout the region.
With schools closed across the D.C. metro area due to COVID-19, many children face food insecurity. Students at Washington Jesuit Academy, a school for 5th through 8th boys from low-income communities, will also receive grocery drop off powered by the new delivery platform.
Via also fills the gap in driver supply, bringing drivers from its ride-sharing service in D.C. to support the high demand for contactless at-home meal delivery. This program also provides Via’s Driver Partners with new earning opportunities while many transit services are reduced. Drivers supporting DC Greens deliveries for Whitman-Walker Clinic and Washington Jesuit Academy log into the Via app and follow delivery instructions, with access to live Via support.
“We are proud to support DC Greens as they provide food resources to vulnerable populations in need during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Daniel Ramot, Via’s co-founder and CEO. “Via's solution enables highly efficient distribution of essential goods during times of emergency, thereby allowing critical programs such DC Greens to serve even more members of our community.”
“We all need to be thinking creatively about new solutions for circumstances that no one has ever contemplated,” said Lauren Shweder Biel, Executive Director of DC Greens. “As companies are pivoting to meet current demands, DC Greens is looking for every possible way to harness their core competencies and deploy them where our city is hurting most. We have been grateful to partner with Via, Occasions and other service providers to meet pressing food access needs.”
"This is a trying time for communities across the board. We're trying to do our part to help fulfill nutritional needs among at-risk seniors, youth and their families; immunocompromised individuals; healthcare professionals and more,” said Mark Michael, Occasions Caterers co-founder and CEO. “It's our time to roll up our sleeves and give back and we're excited about our partnership with DC Greens and Via to help make this happen."
The program is experiencing rapid growth, and has the potential to help sustain relief efforts in an increasingly impactful way in the D.C. area in both the short and long-term. The program is expanding to provide food to patients of Community of Hope and in the coming weeks, the partners expect to be able to serve an increasing number of patients, seniors and students through the use of Via’s intelligent meal delivery platform.
Via is partnering with dozens of municipalities, public transit agencies, healthcare organizations, and nonprofits around the world, to support essential healthcare workers, to help utilize existing transit infrastructure during this time of emergency. In the D.C. area, Via is additionally partnering with the D.C. Department of For-Hire Vehicles to provide on-demand transportation for healthcare workers, and Genuine Foods for at-home meal delivery for students.
Via is re-engineering public transit, from a regulated system of rigid routes and schedules to a fully dynamic, on-demand network. Via’s mobile app connects multiple passengers who are headed the same way, allowing riders to seamlessly share a premium vehicle. First launched in New York City in September 2013, the Via platform operates in the United States and in Europe through its joint venture with Mercedes-Benz Vans, ViaVan. Via’s technology is also deployed worldwide through dozens of partner projects with public transportation agencies, private transit operators, taxi fleets, private companies, and universities, seamlessly integrating with public transit infrastructure to power cutting-edge on-demand mobility. For more information, visit www.platform.ridewithvia.com.
About DC Greens:
Founded in 2009, DC Greens believes that healthy food is a basic human right and works to advance food justice and health equity in the nation’s capital. Recognizing that disparities in food access and health outcomes fall along racial and socioeconomic lines, DC Greens aims to shift power and knowledge to community members so that they can exercise their right to grow, sell and eat healthy food at all times. Over the past 11 years, DC Greens has built relationships across sectors to create innovative solutions for issues of food insecurity in DC. For more information, visit www.dcgreens.org.
About Occasions Caterers’ and Occasions Giving Kitchen:
In April 2020, premier catering company Occasions Caterers was proud to launch Occasions Giving Kitchen – a program where accessibly-priced, wholesome meals are prepared at our kitchens and delivered to the region’s most vulnerable communities. The program supports the following local communities:
- Homebound Senior communities who are at high-risk in Wards 7 and 8
- Disadvantaged youth, families and individuals challenged with food access
- Health and immunocompromised individuals who have lost food services due to the crisis
- Frontline workers who need meals prepared and delivered to them on the job
Some of the receiving organizations include: Food & Friends, East River Family Strengthening Collaborative and Medstar. To date, Occasions Giving Kitchen has provided nearly 40,000 meals to communities in need.