DC has the highest rate of food insecurity among seniors in the country, making older adults a priority population for the food bank. As part of a strategy to increase its service to seniors in need, CAFB took its senior programming on the road this year by adding a mobile delivery option.
A new van enabled the Grocery Plus program – which provides a 30- to 40-pound box of healthy groceries each month to income-eligible DC seniors age 60 and over – to have more flexibility in serving seniors who previously had difficulty accessing other distribution sites.
A survey of older residents conducted by the food bank this year showed transportation issues are a key challenge for seniors facing food insecurity. The survey also showed that they are seeking more fresh, healthy foods.
With the new van, the Grocery Plus team can offer longer time frames for picking up boxes at senior housing centers and other locations that limited staffing and storage capabilities. The van’s schedule also includes a new delivery location at a veterans housing center.
“It gives us the ability to be nimble,” says Marian Peele, senior director of the food bank’s Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which is known as Grocery Plus in DC and My Groceries to Go! in Maryland.
Since August, the new van has logged 1,000 miles driven and more than 1,200 boxes delivered, reaching more than 250 to 300 seniors each month. Between the van and existing distribution efforts, the food bank is now reaching more than 5,400 seniors through the program – more than it has in several years through Grocery Plus.
The van was among several efforts this year to better meet the needs of local seniors. In response to the survey results showing a desire for more fresh, healthy foods, CAFB also helped provide more produce to participants by helping several program sites add refrigeration for storing fruits and vegetables.
These changes are appreciated by seniors like Frank Myers, a Washington, DC, resident and longtime participant in the program. “Everybody needs apples, oranges, bananas,” Frank said. ” The produce is very helpful.”