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Kait
Community Manager
Community Manager

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Originally published on San Francisco Business Times. 

 

When Cruise’s all-electric autonomous vehicles began logging their first miles on San Francisco streets, they weren’t taxiing ride-seekers to jobs, shops or bars. The cars, known as AVs, were delivering free groceries and meals to the city’s low-income residents. 

 

It was the early days of the pandemic, when food insecurity was climbing at alarming rates. The number of households relying on the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank had nearly doubled from 32,000 a week to almost 60,000, according to Amanda Lenaghan, Cruise’s head of Social Impact.  “Our Cruise AVs were able to help the food bank quickly scale their deliveries in order to meet that increasing need,” Lenaghan said.  

 

Two years later, food insecurity still remains an issue in San Francisco. People relying on food assistance programs has risen 42 percent since 2019. To serve those in need, Cruise continues to partner with both the SF-Marin Food Bank and SF New Deal as part of its Cruise For Good social impact program. The company declined to disclose the value of the partnership.

 

Cruise AVs deliver food to homebound seniors, people with disabilities, struggling young families that can’t travel to food banks, and nonprofit food distribution services. To date, Cruise AVs have made more than 127,000 food deliveries using 100 percent clean energy. Of the 2 million meals Cruise For Good has delivered, 80 percent have gone to households living below the poverty level. 

 

These families, as well as the SF-Marin Food Bank and SF New Deal, were actually Cruise’s first customers. Cruise, started in 2013 and majority owned by General Motors, manufactures all-electric self-driving vehicles that harness renewable energy. The company, which has raised more than $15 billion to date, in June it became the first autonomous vehicle company to offer fared rides to the public in San Francisco.  

 

“Cruise is in the early stages,” Lenaghan explained. “It’s exciting to have already made these commitments to the community and to have baked social impact into our DNA.”  

 

“In March 2020, we needed to pivot our services quickly to support a community sheltering in place, and our Home-Delivered Groceries program grew from serving a couple thousand households to serving over 10,000 households each week. Cruise was one of our earliest partners in Home-Delivered Groceries – they came to us right at the start of the pandemic and asked, “how can our technology help?” Their continued partnership is a testament to how companies can use innovative tech in partnership with community organizations to make a profound impact on the lives of so many people.”

 

 

“As we look forward, we know the impacts of Covid-19 will be with us for a long time,” said Michael Wirkkala, chief operating officer at San Francisco-Marin Food Bank. “Even now, more than two years into the pandemic, our Home-Delivered Groceries service has remained steady at more than 10,000 deliveries every week. Big challenges like food insecurity are more complex than many people realize, and tackling them requires innovation and collaboration.”

 

In addition to launching Cruise For Good, Cruise has joined Pledge 1%, a global philanthropic movement that encourages companies to adopt business paradigms that include social impact programs. Through this partnership, Cruise has made a commitment to dedicate at least 1 percent of its fleet to give back to the communities it serves. 

 

“We’re really pleased to be the first AV company that’s a part of the Pledge 1% movement,” Lenaghan said. “For Cruise being early in this nascent industry, we not only can think about how we can address issues facing our community today, but also how we can influence others in our industry to think similarly.” Looking forward, Cruise will continue its commitment to fighting food insecurity and is also looking at ways to contribute to workforce development, Lenaghan said: “This is just the beginning.” 

 

Read article on the San Francisco Business Times.