Over the weekend, a tweet alleging that food delivery service Favor was avoiding South Dallas raised questions of discriminatory delivery practices.
On Saturday, Shawn Scott, a former South Dallas resident and CEO in Dallas, saw a Dallas Morning News story that reported a significant expansion in grocery delivery service Instacart’s delivery area. “After I read the article, I excitedly went to their website to see what areas they covered since I knew they didn’t previously cover Southern Dallas,” Scott told Eater. “About as expected, they still don’t service much of Oak Cliff and West Dallas.”
After posting about the neighborhood’s exclusion on Facebook, a friend posted a photo of Favor’s allegedly discriminatory map in response, and Scott took to Twitter with his concerns.
As the above screenshot indicates, Favor’s delivery map generously covers large swaths of north Dallas, nearly reaching the northernmost part of I-635. The service also covers some areas of West Dallas and Oak Cliff that aren’t too far from the city center. What isn’t covered, though, is pretty much the entirety of South Dallas beneath I-30, even if it’s a literal stone’s throw from Downtown Dallas.
After Scott’s tweet started to pick up steam, dozens of residents from South Dallas and city leaders echoed those concerns. Some even threatened boycotts:
Favor CEO Jag Bath offered a canned response to its criticisms via his Twitter account. “We will be there soon! We continue to expand our zone in Dallas as we grow! Stay tuned,” reads the tweet. “Meanwhile you can order from them as far north as 380,” says Scott in response to Bath’s explanation. “But not if you live 10 minutes south of Downtown Dallas.”
In email quotes provided to Eater, Favor offered Scott a more in-depth reasoning behind its exclusion of South Dallas. “We periodically expand our zone and look for areas where customers have already downloaded our app,” the company said. “And as we draw our delivery zone maps, we commonly cut them off on major roadways as a way to keep the maps simple.”
As Scott points out, Favor’s map closely resembles a practice called redlining, which means withholding services or goods from someone because they live in an area that is deemed to be a poor financial risk. The practice originated in the banking and insurance industries, where providers would refuse to issue insurance policies or lines of credit to economically disadvantaged people.
Favor isn’t the only delivery service in Dallas with this problem. UberEats is available in the area, but in 2013, Uber drivers were accused of racially profiling customers based on the types of payment methods used and their destination addresses. The coverage map for Postmates only includes a few areas of South Dallas a few miles below Downtown, but extends through the northern suburbs. Only DoorDash, which operates in most areas of Dallas, is available in many South Dallas neighborhoods.
The problem of delivery services ignoring people who live in South Dallas is a part of a broader problem. South Dallas has been classified by the USDA as a food desert, where access to healthy or decent food is limited. Scott, who now lives in Rowlett, grew up near Fair Park, where there’s currently one grocery store. “Literally everything in this area is on short supply, except liquor stores and churches. While it’s not technically a food desert by the strict definition, it might as well be considering there is only one full size grocery store in the entire region.”
The problem is so grave that the city of Dallas offered $3 million to any grocery store to set up shop in South Dallas and found no takers. A 2007 study conducted at the University of Texas at Dallas found that “access to reasonably priced, nutritious food is a much more difficult problem than is commonly recognized” for over 400,000 residents in Dallas County. It also found that neighborhoods without access to a grocery store within one mile were heavily populated by racial and ethnic minorities, while neighborhoods with three or more grocery stores within one mile were majority white.
“The residents of Southern Dallas are people like everyone else in the city and want to be treated as such. For pretty much all of their lives they’ve been treated as second class citizens and many live in areas that rival third world countries with their level of poverty,” Scott says. “At the end of the [day] we are the City of Dallas. Either do business with all of us or none of us at all.”
At present, Scott says that he is working with Favor to expand its reach in South Dallas. Whether or not that will actually happen remains to be seen.