This post has been updated.
A couple of days after The Washington Post spotlighted the lack of food delivery services east of the Anacostia River, a resident of one of those neglected neighborhoods launched an online petition to demand equal treatment. Latoya Watson is now close to claiming a full victory.
Postmates, which previously ignored the predominantly black neighborhoods on the east side of the river, decided to expand into those Washington communities on April 13, according to spokeswoman April Conyers. “We turned the zone on last Friday and we’ll be expanding further into those wards over the next couple of months,” Conyers wrote via email.
What’s more, Caviar just this week started delivering to addresses east of the river, said a company spokeswoman. “After hearing from diners, we turned on delivery service to Wards 7 and 8 earlier this week. We look forward to exploring other ways to engage with District residents and businesses as we continue to expand our service in the D.C. area,” she emailed The Post.
It’s a clear victory for Watson, who moved to the River Terrace neighborhood in Ward 7 about a year ago. Her petition, created April 4 on the Spendrise platform, targeted not just Postmates, but also DoorDash and Caviar. The latter two companies offered no meal deliveries to a dozen addresses across Wards 7 and 8 when The Post ran its original story, although DoorDash told a reporter that it had just expanded into Ward 7 a few days before the story published on April 2.
To date, 770 people have signed Watson’s petition, and about 45 percent of them are residents who live east of the river, said Eric Shih, founder and CEO of Spendrise. While the campaign has not collected the large number of signatures that a national petition might, Shih said the comments have been “substantive,” such as this one from Theresa P:
“The difference between the food I can access in Ward 6 (where I live) and Ward 8 (where I work) is astounding. Even if we set the very important equity lens aside, the market for delivery service in Wards 7 and 8 would still be strong given the existing lack of access to grocery stores and sit-down restaurants residents are already forced to deal with.”
As part of the campaign, the Washington-based Spendrise reached out to Postmates, DoorDash and Caviar to let the companies know that Watson was asking them to expand east of the river. (Incidentally, Spendrise typed some addresses into DoorDash and found that it was servicing only part of Ward 7, Shih said. DoorDash did not immediately respond to a request for a comment.)
“We encouraged them to get back to us and listen to their customers,” Shih said about the three delivery services.
Postmates and Caviar have listened. Just as important, the meals that these companies offer range beyond the pizza, chicken and fried foods available to Ward 7 and 8 residents via Grubhub, the nation’s largest food-ordering service. A random check of several addresses found that Postmates and Caviar are delivering meals from dozens of restaurants west of the Anacostia, including Chiko, Ethiopic, Momofuku CCDC, Masala Art, Shake Shack, Maketto and Osteria Morini.
Caviar’s announcement came just ahead of Friday’s social-media campaign, “Eat-In for Equal Service!,” in which consumers are encouraged to purchase meals from Postmates and post photos on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram with the hashtag, #BridgeTheGapDC. Caviar will now be added to the campaign, Watson noted.
“I’m excited to hear that Caviar is responding to customers and now serving all eight wards,” Watson told The Post via email. “I’m beyond inspired by all my neighbors and community members standing up for equal service. We cannot afford to let technology leave out our communities, and I’m glad we have another business we can support this Friday.”
Added Watson after Postmates made its decision earlier in April:
“I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished so far, but to me this campaign’s not just about food delivery,” Watson wrote. “It’s about showing companies that customers and residents throughout the District care about equal treatment and equal service. Serving D.C. means serving Ward 7 and 8, too.”