Innovative Methods for Delivering Fresh Foods to Underserved Populations

Project Abstract

This study aims to develop a last-mile fresh food delivery system for individuals in underserved communities with food deserts in the City of Baltimore. The study pioneers in applying state-of-the-art city logistics modeling experiences to improve access to fresh foods. It focuses on the equity role that the last-mile delivery network model can play as well as appropriate business models for building a self-sustainable public-private partnership program. Models will be developed for analyzing and optimizing various alternatives for home deliveries. The developed system's sensitivities to various pricing and policy alternatives are explored, followed by a case study. These will generate policy suggestions for a larger-scale pilot and, ultimately, implementation in a Year 2 study. This study is intended to go beyond building a prototype. In consultation with the Baltimore City Health Department (BCHD) and other public agencies, we envision developing a fully implementable model.

Universities and Sponsoring Organizations Involved

Morgan State University, University of Maryland-College Park

Principal Investigators

Hyeon-Shic Shin, Ph.D., Morgan State University,
Young-Jae Lee, Ph.D., Morgan State University,
Paul Schonfeld, Ph.D., University of Maryland-College Park,

Funding Sources and Amounts

USDOT: $139,489 (Federal), Morgan State University: $45,966 (Match), University of Maryland-College Park: $25,718 (Match)

Start Date

January 2, 2018

Expected Completion Date

December 31, 2018

Expected Research Outcomes

1. Identify needs and demands for fresh foods of underserved area residents.
2. Develop a cost-effective and sustainable business model in collaboration with agencies in and outside Baltimore, relevant business stakeholders, and advocacy groups.
3. Design a prototype system model for evaluating various alternatives (electric vehicles with connected and automated capabilities in consideration, drones, walking, biking, public transit, and multi-modal combinations).
4. Evaluate the developed model's sensitivity to various pricing and policy options, and external factors (e.g., size of total economic impacts).

This study is not meant to be a mere academic exercise building a conceptual network. In collaboration with the BCHD and other stakeholders, we will develop a fully implementable model that is general enough to be widely applicable in other regions and situations.

Expected Equity Impacts and Benefits of Implementation

 This proposal directly addresses UMEC's Theme 1: Transit/paratransit/ride-sharing and freight planning and operations to improve urban mobility, access and cost efficiency. It also addresses Theme 2: Acceptance and affordability of connected/automated/electric vehicles; and Theme 3: planning/management of innovative vehicle systems, and distribution of transportation costs and benefits, including equity of user fees and taxes.
From uniqueness and timeliness perspectives, the study pioneers in applying state-of-the-art city logistics modeling experiences to improving access to fresh foods. In addition, the study promotes three equity components, i.e., the three pillars of sustainability: social justice (by improving fresh food accessibility of underserved communities), environment (by using clean propulsion and non-motorized modes), and economy (by improving the efficiency and reliability of delivery services). In terms of practicability, and collaboration with stakeholders, this study meets the current needs of BCHD, and the first priority of Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, "social justice." Finally, the developed model will be general enough to ensure transferability. For example, a team at the District of Columbia Department of Transportation has expressed interest in collaboration

Subject Areas

Last mile food delivery; Accessibility improvement for underserved population; social justice in transportation; Transportation planning and policy