Supervisor Ray Miller organizes the Flashfood pantry at Stop &...

Supervisor Ray Miller organizes the Flashfood pantry at Stop & Shop in East Northport last Friday. Credit: Barry Sloan

Eggs, milk and bread.

They are staples of most Americans’ kitchens.

They also are among the quickest to be bought via an app-based marketplace, Flashfood, that recently began selling discounted food near its best-by date at about 60 of Stop & Shop’s New York State supermarkets, including 31 of the 50 on Long Island.

High inflation and growing food insecurity on Long Island are spurring customer demand for discount programs and other food assistance, retail experts and food bank officials said.

What to know

  • Stop & Shop has expanded its partnership with app-based marketplace Flashfood to about 60 of its New York state supermarkets, including 31 of the 50 on Long Island.
  • Shoppers use the Flashfood app on their cellphones to get discounts, typically 50% off, on purchases of food that is near its best-by date. Customers pick up their purchased items in “Flashfood Zones” inside stores.
  • High inflation and growing food insecurity on Long Island are spurring more customer demand for discount programs and other food assistance, retail experts and food bank officials said.

Stop & Shop customers’ use of the Flashfood app is increasing, according to the grocer, but the Quincy, Massachusetts-based retailer said it cannot determine if high inflation is the reason.

Nationwide grocery price inflation, which soared by 11.4% last year, the fastest growth in nearly 50 years, has slowed, but not enough to quell consumers’ demand for discount programs for their food shopping, retail experts said.

Coupon redemption rates are up 20% year over year, even though grocery inflation dropped to 8.4% in March, said Andy Jump, vice president and general manager of the Incentives and Loyalty unit at Inmar Intelligence, a retail industry analytics company in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. 

“Shoppers haven’t felt the relief yet because the demand is still there,” he said.

With Flashfood, shoppers use an app on their cellphones to get discounts, typically 50% off, on purchases of perishable food that is between one and five days from its best-by date, Stop & Shop spokesman Daniel Wolk said. Nonperishable items can be bought on the app within a year of their best-by dates, he said.

Customers pick up their purchased items in “Flashfood zones” inside stores.

The food sold via the Flashfood app is safe and of high quality, said Jordan Schenck, chief brand officer at Flashfood.

Having first partnered with Flashfood in 2021, Stop & Shop now offers the app program at about 300 stores in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Founded in 2016, Toronto-based Flashfood Inc. has partnered with 23 retailers to offer the app deals at more than 1,700 stores in the United States and Canada, but Stop & Shop is the only Long Island retailer participating. 

“Flashfood is a tool for grocers to recover dollars to their bottom line and reduce even more food waste,” the company says on its website.

There are 3 million customers using the app in North America, the company said.

Worcester, Massachusetts, couple Laurence and Paula Jaffe buy 75% of their groceries from Stop & Shop via the Flashfood app, and the remainder from a military commissary, said Laurence, 80, a retired Air Force master sergeant.

“It’s worth my time … because it decreases the food waste,” said Jaffe, who said he and his wife have saved about $4,000 on the app in the last 1½ years.

Impact on LI's largest food bank

Stop & Shop food that is not sold by the best-by date but falls under the guidelines of Feeding America, a network of food banks, for being safe to consume is donated to local hunger-relief groups, the grocer said.

Stop & Shop is one of the biggest retail food donors to Island Harvest Food Bank, the largest food bank on Long Island, said Randi Dresner, president and chief executive officer of the Melville-based nonprofit. About 12 years ago, Island Harvest piloted a meat rescue program with Stop & Shop, which froze meat near its best-by date and donated it to the nonprofit, she said.

Now, under the expanded program, Island Harvest receives an average of 800,000 pounds of donated frozen meat and other proteins annually from Stop & Shop and other retailers, Dresner said.

Island Harvest sees the grocer’s Flashfood partnership potentially having both positive and negative impacts on the nonprofit’s work to feed those in need, she said.

“On one side of it, if it’s successful, it will probably have a negative impact on us in the amount of food that Stop & Shop donates to Island Harvest so that we can provide it to people in need in the community,” she said.

On the other hand, for shoppers using the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, Flashfood will increase the number of grocery items they could affordably buy, giving them the independence to buy healthy food, she said.

Regardless, food insecurity is rising on Long Island, a metro area known for its high median incomes and high cost of living.

In the first quarter of 2023, the five food pantries operated by Long Island Cares assisted 36,043 people, a 59.5% increase over the number in the same period last year, according to Idalia “Dali” Boczek, director of satellite services for the Hauppauge-based nonprofit.

“I have a feeling it’s going to go higher,” she said.

Some of the increased need is due to the expiration in March of a temporary boost in SNAP benefits during the COVID-19 pandemics, she said.

There are several reasons that food prices remain high, including reduced supply as a result of lost commodity production in Ukraine and parts of Russia, and the possibility that fallout from the pandemic is limiting production in parts of the world, said Scott Hoyt, senior director of consumer economics at Moody’s Analytics in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

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