As corporate grocery stores have exited South Dallas over the past couple of decades, it’s become increasingly difficult for neighbors to shop for affordable, nutritious food.
Several nonprofit organizations have stepped up in recent years to address this problem, such as Cornerstone’s Southpoint Community Market with its profitable corner store model, and St. Philip’s Aunt Bette’s Community Pantry and Bridge Builders’ South Dallas Community Market with their “client choice” food pantries.
Now, Bonton Farms, Kroger and the Innercity Community Development Corporation are partnering to bring South Dallas neighbors another grocery option: Grocery Connect.
While neighbors could already schedule grocery orders to their homes with a $6.95 delivery fee, they can now place an order to be delivered to ICDC in the Mill City neighborhood, with no delivery fee.
With a $1.1 million investment from Kroger, Share Our Strength, The Constantin Foundation, Leadership Dallas and private donors for the one-year pilot, Grocery Connect aims to serve 400 households within the first six months. This funding does not cover any of Kroger’s costs of the program, rather it establishes Grocery Connect as a company and covers the salary of a grocery concierge, outreach, marketing and costs to set up an office within ICDC, including a refrigerator and freezer to store leftover or unclaimed groceries.
Groceries will be delivered to ICDC once a week — with expanded dates based on demand — in a refrigerated truck. The driver will stay throughout the four-hour delivery period to keep neighbors’ groceries as fresh as possible and ensure that all their items are correct. Right now, neighbors can enter payment information with debit or credit cards, or Kroger gift cards when placing the order online.
Kroger’s delivery programming also accepts SNAP and EBT benefits, in which up to 55% of households in the 75210 zip code are enrolled. One South Dallas neighbor, Laquanta Wallace, attended a December Grocery Connect soft launch event with her family. She says she’s excited to try out the service.
“That’ll be real helpful, especially for all the elderly who can’t get to the store,” Wallace says. “Transportation really is the main issue over here, and if they accept EBT, that’s great for a lot of people over here.”
ICDC executive director Billy Lane says Bonton Farms and Kroger approached ICDC for this program because of their positive reputation and community trust. Lane says that taking a “non-traditional” approach to tackle food insecurity should yield non-traditional results.
“Food and the delivery of food brings outcomes that we can’t even imagine, that we have not even begun to write down yet,” Lane says. “What Kroger does not realize is that, not only are they delivering food, they are helping nurture an opportunity right here in the Mill City neighborhood, in Frazier, and in Bertrand.”
Bonton Farms, which was founded 12 years ago to “to disrupt the long-standing cycle of poverty in Bonton,” says they have been able to help provide neighbors with fresh produce through their farmers market, but president Gabe Madison hopes this partnership will create a transferable model to other communities, and give neighbors more options for food.
“We know that this model could be replicated in other places, quicker than anything we were creating just in [the Bonton] community,” Madison says. “What we were trying to do all along is solve food insecurity.”
Later this spring, Grocery Connect will expand to the Frazier neighborhood through Frazier Revitalization, and to Bonton, through Bonton Farms, in the fall. Dates and details for these programs have not yet been released.
John Votava, corporate affairs director for Kroger Dallas, says that while the company has done community outreach programs before — like SNAP/EBT enrollment outreach coupled with waived delivery fees with the Tarrant Area Food Bank — this service will be a first for them. While he acknowledged that South Dallas does need better access to fresh and healthy food options, he says grocery delivery is a more cost-effective option for Kroger than a brick-and-mortar grocery store, particularly because of the company’s customer fulfillment center in Lancaster, which opened in July 2022.
Grocery Connect also will work with the Connected Dallas anchor site, located in the ICDC building, to give neighbors access to devices and WiFi to place the orders, and help neighbors navigate the ordering process between delivery days.
Even though some organizations and neighbors are enthusiastic, it will take time to see if the program succeeds in South Dallas. In 2022 Amazon launched a grocery delivery service in Dallas-Fort Worth for those with SNAP, but based on our conversations with neighbors, few South Dallas neighbors are familiar with the program.
Dallas Free Press reached out to Amazon for information on current program enrollment in the area, and for local contact information, but public relations staff said they were not able to share this data.
How to access Grocery Connect:
- Visit the Grocery Connect website, and select “Get Started” and then select an ordering orientation appointment from the calendar
- Complete the in-person appointment at the Connected Dallas anchor site at ICDC with Grocery Connect concierge Robbie Frazier
- Enter payment information into Kroger account: SNAP/EBT, debit or credit card, or Kroger gift card
- Finalize order and schedule pick-up time
- Return to ICDC on the scheduled pickup day and time
- Review your order with Kroger delivery staff
- Once reviewed, the payment method will be charged, and groceries can be taken home
Neighbors only need to complete the orientation once, and after they are set up with Grocery Connect, future orders can be completed from home on personal devices, or in-person at ICDC, using devices provided by Connected Dallas.