Pantry 279 Food Bank Raises Concerns Over Door Dash’s “Help” — Pantry 279 now desperately needs volunteer drivers again

Staff report

Bloomington, Ind. – July 9, 2023

Pantry 279 is grappling with the adverse effects of Door Dash’s purportedly charitable initiative, according to Cindy Chavez, who runs the food bank. Last summer, the delivery service approached the organization with an offer to provide free delivery services, a program that had been piloted in other states since 2018. Initially optimistic about the partnership, Pantry 279 quickly encountered numerous challenges that have resulted in harm to its operations and the community they serve.

Chavez responded to the Bloomingtonian’s inquiry on why the food bank needs drivers and told the following narrative in a series of text messages. Chavez said after the failure of the Door Dash program to actually help the food bank, Pantry 279 is now in dire need of volunteer drivers and has now had to cancel some food deliveries as a result.

While the collaboration initially appeared promising, allowing the food bank to distribute more meals and ease the strain on their resources, a series of problematic incidents began to surface. Pantry 279 highlighted several major issues with Door Dash’s delivery drivers. Complaints ranged from theft and fraudulent claims of delivery to incorrect addresses and a lack of attention to instructions provided by the food bank.

According to Chavez, some drivers stole food and falsely reported completing the delivery, as evidenced by conflicting time stamps. Others would cancel the delivery after stealing the food, triggering a new driver to pick up the items. However, with limited food supplies, the food bank was unable to continuously fulfill these additional requests. Chavez emphasized that Pantry 279’s demand for food remains high, while the availability of resources remains challenging.

In addition, Chavez said, some drivers often delivered to the wrong addresses, leaving vulnerable families without the support they desperately needed. There were instances where drivers would leave groceries intended for multiple households at a single doorstep within an apartment complex, neglecting the genuine recipients of the food. Pantry 279 also noted that the Door Dash app failed to recognize certain low-income apartment complexes, leading drivers to incorrect locations or empty lots on campus.

Further exacerbating the situation, Chavez said some drivers exhibited unprofessional behavior. Instances were reported where drivers were under the influence of drugs, resulting in canceled deliveries and stolen food. The food bank also received complaints from clients about drivers reeking of marijuana, causing the delivered food to have an undesirable odor. Moreover, numerous drivers refused to accommodate disabled individuals by placing the food slightly inside their doors, hindering their ability to access the provisions.

Pantry 279’s Chavez acknowledged the limited financial means of non-profit organizations and expressed frustration with Door Dash’s actions. The food bank stated that it felt the company had baited them with the promise of free services, only to discontinue the program and charge for deliveries afterward. Despite the challenges faced with Door Dash, Pantry 279 recognized the invaluable contributions of their dedicated volunteers, who proved to be more reliable than the delivery service.

Attempting to address the issues, Pantry 279 shifted back to relying predominantly on volunteer drivers in February. This decision led to increased wait times at the pantry, which were already unmanageable, and required them to limit the amount of food distributed to match the capacity of their limited vehicles.

Although Pantry 279 received a grant of $5,000 from Door Dash, only half of the funds were utilized. Upon raising concerns along with other organizations in July, the food bank received an email notification from Door Dash, extending the grant’s utilization period until September 30. However, Pantry 279 is now questioning the value of the grant in light of the ongoing challenges they face with drivers. The organization expressed hesitance to send Door Dash drivers to certain locations, as they have little confidence that the food will reach its intended recipients.

As Pantry 279 continues to grapple with these difficulties, they are actively seeking additional volunteers to provide the support they need to serve the community effectively. The organization remains committed to its mission of alleviating food insecurity and hopes to find a solution that ensures reliable and compassionate delivery services in the future.

The Bloomingtonian reached out to Door Dash, and a Door Dash spokesperson said:

“DoorDash is proud to help broaden access by powering the delivery of charitable food and essential items for hundreds of food banks, food pantries, and other social impact organizations across the U.S. and Canada. The vast majority of Project DASH deliveries are completed successfully. We take partner feedback seriously and work with each partner to implement best practices to ensure a positive experience. Safety is a top priority and, in cases where a partner is not satisfied with a delivery, they can block a Dasher from any future deliveries and should report any safety concerns to DoorDash immediately.”

Door Dash also said the following about their program to help food banks:

“Since 2018, Project DASH has powered more than 5 million deliveries of an estimated over 80 million meals across the U.S. and Canada for hundreds of food banks, food pantries, and other social impact organizations. Using the same technology available to DoorDash’s merchant partners, Project DASH empowers community organizations to reach their clients and increase access to food and other resources in their communities. Project DASH has partnered with Pantry 279 since August 2022 and we’ve powered thousands of in-kind deliveries as part of this partnership. DoorDash does not make a profit on Project DASH and Project DASH deliveries are provided at discounted rates.

Feedback is always welcome as we work to improve how Project DASH helps partners serve vulnerable communities. We consistently work with partners to directly implement best practices to ensure a positive experience. The vast majority of Project DASH deliveries are successfully fulfilled and many Dashers enjoy doing Project DASH deliveries as they can support their community while earning on the DoorDash platform.

As standard practice, we recommend that partners explain any unique components of their delivery program to Dashers when they pick up food and, as they implement their program, to prefer Dashers via their merchant portal so they can develop a consistent group of Dashers with experience fulfilling Project DASH deliveries. In the past year, we’ve implemented improvements that ensure delivery instructions are in a more prominent place in-app.

In the event that a Project DASH partner is not satisfied with an individual Dasher, they can block that Dasher from receiving any of their future deliveries. Safety is a top priority and we encourage all partners to report any safety concerns to DoorDash immediately so we can take all appropriate action. We have zero tolerance for theft, driving under the influence and unsafe behavior of any kind. Any Dasher found to be in violation of our rules faces consequences, including deactivation.”

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