Camden City Human Services Agencies Receive $35K in DoorDash Gift Cards


The delivery service credits will be distributed through the city government and its community nonprofits, as Camden continues to reckon with issues of food insecurity.

By Matt Skoufalos | August 17, 2023

DoorDash gift card. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

Over the next two years, Camden City will receive $35,000 in DoorDash credits, as the food delivery service announced a two-year, planned contribution to support residents battling food insecurity.

In a Thursday morning press conference at the North Camden Community Center, Camden City Mayor Victor Carstarphen said the gift cards will be used to help residents manage the persistent local issues of poverty and a lack of access to nutritious meals.

“We struggle with food security and equitable access to quality food,” Carstarphen said. “This is part of what I always call everyone working in different lanes to create a positive mission in the city of Camden.”

Camden City has been designated a food desert by the New Jersey Departments of Community Affairs and Agriculture, as well as by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA), which earmarks state funds and investment benefits for private businesses whose work would alleviate those circumstances. NJEDA also has described Camden City as the largest food desert in the state.

Ultimately, food insecurity is an economic issue, and with some 40 percent of Camden City residents living around the poverty level, it’s an outsized local concern. Food access is another common complaint, sufficient to draw political conversations about why a city of 72,000 people doesn’t have a large-format grocery.

It’s also a circumstance that the ambitious, planned “food innovation center” project from chef Aaron McCargo — which would include aquaponics, vertical farming, mobile food vendors, and onsite bar/restaurants — intends to alleviate.

While emphasizing the presence of local food markets within the city, like Fayer’s in the Parkside neighborhood and Cousin’s in the Marlton section, Carstarphen also acknowledged that the city government is “working on more partnerships to bring some bigger grocery vendors here.”

DoorDash executive Toney Anaya. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

“I don’t want people to feel like there are no places to get fruits and vegetables,” Carstarphen said.

“There’s a lot of hard-working people trying to provide access to communities, he said.

“[But]  we don’t rest on our laurels where we’re at.”

Toney Anaya, head of Global Government Relations for DoorDash, said that one of the missions of the company “is to grow and empower local economies.

“It is clear that there’s an urgent need for collaboration across the public and private sectors to break down barriers to food access,” Anaya said.

Camden City Council President Angel Fuentes, who issued a civic commendation to DoorDash for its contribution, said that the gift cards “will help feed a lot of families and children throughout the city.

“We need to continue this commitment, this partnership, to make sure that every child will not go hungry,” Fuentes said.

Clayton Gonzalez of the Camden Department of Human Services, which will disburse the gift cards through its programs and those of partner organizations, said the DoorDash funds “will extend our outreach” to residents who struggle to find enough to eat.

“It’s all about making sure that our city residents have access to these important resources at their time of need,” Gonzalez said.

Flanked by representatives from the American Red Cross and the Food Bank of South Jersey, Merilee Rutolo, President and Chief Strategy Officer for the Center for Family Services, said that reliable access to nutritious food “consistently tops that list of persistent challenges” for people served by organizations within Camden City.

North Camden Community Center. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

“Hungry children are unable to focus in school,” Rutolo said.

“Individuals and families are fighting against the stigma of what it means to be hungry.

“This initiative will bring free and immediate food access to residents across the city, and help remove food barriers,” she said.

A distribution plan for the gift cards has yet to be designed, but officials confirmed that delivery fees will not be assessed on the orders they’re used to fulfill.

Camden City Communications Director Vince Basara said they’ll be available to Camden residents only, and in different increments.

The funds effectively offer a stopgap and not a solution to the problems of food insecurity within the city, but represent a meaningful part of a multi-pronged strategy that includes food banks and pantries, corner stores within the city, farmers markets, “and at some point bringing a larger supermarket to the city,” Basara said.

“There’s no one single solution to this,” he said.

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