PORT MORRIS — FreshDirect agreed Friday to serve all parts of The Bronx and launch a pilot program allowing food stamp users to make online orders.
Critics slammed the city and state’s decision earlier this year to award FreshDirect $130 million in subsidies to build a new headquarters in the South Bronx when the company only delivered to two well-off neighborhoods in the northern part of the borough and did not accept food stamps.
On Friday, the company said that beginning next week it will deliver to every Bronx zip code and that it had received the US Department of Agriculture’s approval to let a test group of Bronx food stamp recipients order groceries over the Internet.
Currently, online food retailers like FreshDirect cannot accept food stamps because the food stamp payment system, called Electronic Benefits Transfer, does not support online transactions.
We are “thrilled that we are now able to serve the entire Bronx and provide residents there with convenient access to quality, fresh foods,” said FreshDirect CEO Jason Ackerman.
The company added that the USDA just approved its food stamp pilot program last week and that it still needs to finalize some details, including which Bronx food stamp users will be included in the test group.
The announcement does not address other lingering concerns that some South Bronx residents have raised about FreshDirect’s planned move to the Harlem River Yards in Port Morris, including the impact on local air quality and access to the waterfront.
Last week, two city councilmembers who represent parts of the South Bronx wrote to the state’s Department of Transportation asking it to delay the FreshDirect project until its potential impact on local residents has been determined.
“Should this deal be approved, it would add upwards of 2,000 daily vehicle trips through the neighborhood,” Councilmembers Maria del Carmen Arroyo and Melissa Mark-Viverito wrote in a letter to DOT Commissioner Joan McDonald.
“The cumulative effect of such facilities on air quality in the South Bronx, where we have
an asthma epidemic, is staggering,” the councilmembers added.
The Transportation Department said it would respond to their request later this month.