By Christina Sturdivant-Sani, Special to the AFRO
A 31-year-old Ward 7 resident has created an online petition calling out food delivery services that don’t deliver to neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River. In three days, the petition garnered more than 200 signatures and dozens of comments.
Latoya Watson launched the petition after finding that UberEATS is one of few companies that deliver meals from restaurants to her home. “Uber has been a game changer for communities of color and it’s time for other services to fall in line,” Watson told the AFRO.
The campaign’s offenders include Caviar, Postmates, and Doordash. All three companies did not immediately return requests for comment by the AFRO. She says some companies blame the disparity on supply and demand, but that’s not a legitimate excuse. “Even if it was just my household ordering food, that doesn’t come out of your business model. You just send somebody over and we’ll pay you over and over because we’re lazy and don’t like to cook,” she said.
Watson believes these companies are discriminating against the Black Washingtonians who make up more than 95 percent of Ward 7 and 8 residents. “It’s absolutely a race thing,” said Watson, who is Black. “I’m paying you the same money – it’s the same color as anybody else’s and has the same value, so it doesn’t make sense to completely ignore such a large group of people.”
Watson, a Columbus, Ohio native, rented an apartment for several years in Logan Circle where a plethora of restaurants were in walking distance and food delivery services ferried meals from eateries neighborhoods away. In 2017, she and her partner bought a home in River Terrace, a waterfront community along the Anacostia River.
Then she learned what it felt like to live in an urban food desert. “My entire lifestyle had to change,” she said, adding that she bought a car because she could no longer walk or bike to go grocery shopping or dining out.
She learned about the lack of food delivery services when she tried to use a coupon from Postmates. Though the company’s website advertises deliveries for “anything, anywhere, anytime,” its carriers don’t trek to her Ward 7 address. She then tried a couple of other food delivery services with no luck. “I kept that coupon code for so long and had to use it during lunch time at my job that was near Union Station,” she recalled. “Why do I have to wait until work hours to use my coupon versus using it whenever I want at the house?”
On April 4, she launched the petition using Spendrise, a platform that lets paying customers voice their concerns about businesses. Some campaigns also let people pledge money to businesses that make changes. In just under a week, she’s received support from residents from all across the city.
“As a native of Ward 7 I’ve watched other areas experience rapid growth to include new sit down restaurants and food delivery options. The lack of food options on the East End, unfortunately is one of race, this injustice must end!” commented Tyrell Holcomb, a Ward 7 advisory neighborhood commissioner.
“There is no reason that I should have access to food delivery as a resident of Ward 4, when Wards 7 and 8 are oftentimes located closer to your partnering restaurants. Until you begin serving ALL of DC’s residents, I won’t be using your services,” wrote Chris Griffiths.
Spendrise sent a letter to representatives from Caviar, DoorDash, and Postmates to telling them about the campaign. Thus far, Watson has heard from a Postmates representative who said they’d received the notification. “My only goal is that action happens – if at least one of the companies that we’re calling out makes a change,” Watson said.