FRESHDIRECT SET TO DELIVER TO ALL ZIP CODES IN THE BRONX. EXCLUSIVE: ONLINE GROCER WILL ALSO ANNOUNCE IT WILL ACCEPT FOOD STAMPS

BY DANIEL BEEKMAN / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Fri, May 18th, 2012

FreshDirect is set to roll out two changes that promise to make its grocery delivery services accessible throughout the Bronx, but critics of the company’s planned relocation to Mott Haven continue to be unmoved.

The company will announce Friday that it’s set to become the first New York grocer approved to accept food stamps as payment over the Internet.

FreshDirect will also announce Friday that it will now accept delivery orders from every ZIP code in the Bronx.

The news comes amid debate over the approval of public subsidies for the company to build its new headquarters in the impoverished South Bronx.

FreshDirect opponents have noted that the firm currently serves just two Bronx neighborhoods, affluent Riverdale and Woodlawn.

Deliveries to all ZIP codes will start May 21, the company said. “We are thrilled that we are now able to serve the entire Bronx and provide residents . . . convenient access to quality, fresh foods,” said CEO Jason Ackerman.

Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., who helped broker the subsidy deal, called the announcements “tangible evidence” that the firm will be a “good neighbor,” and Mayor Bloomberg said it will “benefit the city by improving access to healthy foods.”

But local critics of the move don’t seem to find the arrangement any more appetizing.

“I don’t care about (FreshDirect) delivering to the South Bronx,” said Lily Kesselman, of Mott Haven. “South Bronx residents don’t need their services. We have food carts, urban farms . . . Our concern is the use of the waterfront for a facility that will increase diesel truck traffic.”

In February, the Bloomberg administration approved roughly $82 million in subsidies for the company to move from Long Island City to Mott Haven.

The city, state and Bronx have committed about $120 million to help FreshDirect, and the firm has vowed to create 1,000 jobs.

But the pricey package has sparked protests by community residents and government watchdogs, who argue that the deal lacks enforceable job guarantees and claim that FreshDirect trucks will pollute the Bronx waterfront.

Opponents have also slammed FreshDirect for its skimpy service in poor Bronx nabes where fruits and vegetables are scarce.

People who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — known as food stamps — are currently unable to buy online because the Electronic Benefits Transfer system only supports supermarket purchases.

But last week, the Feds approved a test program that will allow FreshDirect to serve a sampling of food stamp users in the Bronx.

The firm hopes the experiment will lead to online purchases nationwide.

“They are changing their entire business model for us,” Diaz said.

But opponents noted that many FreshDirect jobs pay at or near the minimum wage, and called the size of the subsidy package “ridiculous” in light of cuts to education and social services.

Ed Garcia, of Melrose, called the announcements a “good step” but claimed FreshDirect trucks will drive up asthma rates near stretches of the waterfront that should be preserved for parkland.

FreshDirect has yet to announce how the pilot will work, and when it will start.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/freshdirect-set-deliver-zip-codes-bronx-article-1.1080250#ixzz1vD2WVYvU

FRESHDIRECT EXPANDS SERVICE TO THE BRONX

Online Grocer Set To Start Accepting Orders From All Bronx Zip Codes; Deliveries To Start On May 21

FreshDirect Wins USDA Approval To Launch Food Stamp Pilot Program; Initiative Could Lead To Food Stamp Policy Change

NEW YORK – FreshDirect today announced that it is now accepting delivery orders from every zip code in the Bronx, expanding access to fresh, healthy groceries. Actual deliveries to the new zip codes will start being made on May 21. As part of FreshDirect’s service expansion, the company will promote a Bronx grand opening sale with discounts on popular items of up to 50 percent plus new customer discounts of $25 all for Bronx residents – available now at www.freshdirect.com.

Earlier this year, FreshDirect partnered with Governor Cuomo, Mayor Bloomberg, and Borough President Diaz to announce that the leading fresh food Internet grocer will invest $112.6 million to build its new headquarters at Harlem River Yard. The move will create 1,000 new jobs to support our continued growth over time and will retain 2,000 existing jobs. In addition, the actual construction of the new headquarters will create approximately 684 construction jobs.

FreshDirect also said it has secured approval for a novel pilot program that it hopes will result in changing a federal policy that currently keeps food stamp recipients from using their benefits to purchase groceries over the Internet. This pilot program will enable food stamp recipients at a few Bronx locations to purchase groceries from FreshDirect and will enable the company to identify regulatory modifications that may need to be made to the Electronic Benefits Transfer, the system that supports food stamp transactions.

“As we continue to grow and create jobs in New York City, we are thrilled that we are now able to serve the entire Bronx and provide residents there with convenient access to quality, fresh foods,” Jason Ackerman, CEO of FreshDirect said. “This expansion is part of our larger effort to find ways to enable all New Yorkers to lead healthy lifestyles.”

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said, “FreshDirect has already demonstrated a clear commitment to strengthening New York City’s economy through a significant private investment and the creation of nearly 1,000 new jobs. Now, with its plans to expand services to all of the Bronx and advocate for an online Food Stamp pilot program, FreshDirect will further benefit the City by improving access to healthy foods.”

“Throughout the relocation process, FreshDirect has been focused on the needs of Bronx residents, so much so that the company signed a comprehensive MOU with my office outlining their commitment to the Bronx on service expansion, accepting food stamps, local hiring and other key concerns,” said Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. “Today’s announcement shows that FreshDirect is ready to live up to those commitments ahead of schedule, years before making the Bronx their official home. I am pleased with FreshDirect’s plans to expand its delivery zones to every corner of the borough. Ultimately, this move will offer residents increased healthy grocery options.”

FreshDirect said details about the food stamp pilot program are still being worked out but that it will enable food stamp recipients at a few Bronx locations to purchase groceries.

USDA Undersecretary Kevin Concannon emphasized the importance of the FreshDirect project, saying “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients in the Bronx will have greater access to the fresh foods that are so vital to healthy nutrition.”

Currently, those who rely on the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – also known as Food Stamps – are unable to purchase groceries over the Internet from online vendors like FreshDirect. Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT), the system that allows SNAP recipients to pay for groceries, does not now support Internet transactions. As a result, FreshDirect is currently unable to accept food stamps.

FreshDirect asked the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to approve a pilot program to allow it to serve a test segment of Food Stamp beneficiaries in the Bronx. With USDA’s approval freshly in hand, FreshDirect is now working to implement the pilot program and will detail how it will work in the coming weeks.

To ensure compliance with EBT regulations currently in place, FreshDirect will make several modifications to its business operations for the pilot program. The company will waive all delivery charges for EBT orders as a condition of current EBT purchase restrictions; purchase thousands of dollars worth of offline payment processing machines and pay incremental fees to accept EBT at the point of delivery; and modify its website interface and driver delivery software to ensure electronic reconciliation of individual EBT order accounts – something that is not currently available with mobile EBT processing devices.

USDA approved the pilot program last week. FreshDirect will announce the pilot deployment launch date, delivery locations, and other program details soon.

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FreshDirect is a leading online grocer in the U.S., delivering premium quality fresh-from-the-farm foods and brand-name groceries to customers in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. With a 2,000-member workforce that is still growing and an emphasis on nutritious, delicious meals and convenient services that allow customers more time to live healthy lives, FreshDirect aspires to be a valued corporate partner in all communities in which it serves. For more information, please visit www.freshdirect.com. For updates, follow us on Twitter: @freshdirect and on Facebook: facebook.com/FreshDirect.

Quick Facts

Jobs

We will be creating and retaining 3,000 good-paying jobs.

Food

Our move will help us deliver top-quality groceries and fresh produce to more New Yorkers.

Going Green

We are developing a green transportation fleet with clean technology to reduce pollution in the Bronx.