Special Delivery for the Elderly: Bringing Food and Nutrition to the Door
By Leslie Eckford
Recently, we were asked to look into the burgeoning business of delivering food to elders still residing in their own homes. Even if you do have some caregiving services and are aging in place, you may still benefit from having your groceries delivered to your door. In the past, the primary option has been Meals on Wheels. While this service is literally a life saver for many, it does not fill in the gaps for those who can still cook, have special needs in their diets, or who simply like more control over what they eat and the variety in their diet.
We are happy to report that there are many growing enterprises, both non-profit and for profit, to assist elders to continue to get their own groceries even if they can’t make the trip to the store themselves. Let’s start with some well established non-profits that we hope to see in more communities. Store to Door of the Portland, Oregon area, for example, has a grocery, prescription drug and household item delivery service for seniors and physically disabled adults. After registering for the program, an elder adult has a set weekly time that they get a call from a volunteer to request their grocery list; the next day, the volunteer goes to the store, and may call the senior if a particular item is not available and discuss substitute options; then the groceries are delivered that day and the volunteer and the senior check the items together to make sure that they are correct and put them away. The fee is 10% of the grocery bill excluding prescription drugs. There is also a Store to Door in Miniapolis, MN which differs slightly in that it appears the service is exclusively for grocery store items and states that its volunteers shop at one grocery chain only. Each of these Door to Store models offset the actual cost of the program with volunteers and donations.
In fact, in July 2015, the US Department of Agriculture announced that it will be running a pilot program similar to this model in up to 20 non-profits around the country with the goal of enabling seniors who have Food Stamps to participate. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is apparently less utilized by eligible older adults than younger recipients. The head of the department, Tom Vilsack, noted that this is in part due to the fact that elders are often unable to manage getting out to the store, purchasing and physically getting groceries back home. The pilot program hopes to improve senior nutrition and well being, as well as to ward off unnecessary costly hospitalizations and nursing home stays associated with malnutrition.
In the private sector, the possibilities are growing by leaps and bounds. Many grocery store chains offer an online grocery shopping experience with either pick up at the store location and some that will provide delivery. There is usually a minimum order plus a fee over the cost of the actual groceries. Kroger, the grocery store giant that owns many US grocery chains, for example, has entered the delivery market in different regions of the country. In some places, you can opt to pick up at the store at a delivery window and theoretically, not even have to get out of the car. (It is not clear from the online description if an actual person would come out of the store to put the groceries in the car or if they would hand all groceries through the window. That could be difficult for some elders to do.) The delivery option is not in every region yet, and the “Click and Collect” platform also appears to vary depending what part of the country you are in. For example the Kroger online shopping in the Atlanta area it is through Instacart and other areas are with Homeshop and Clicklist. To find the option in your locale, search Kroger home delivery and name your location. In Michigan, Kroger has even started free prescription drug delivery.
Walmart has also entered the arena, introducing competitive pricing in this business of home grocery delivery. They have online shopping and pick up available in 21 locations around the country, and 3 areas currently offer delivery. There is a $30 minimum order. The delivery fee varies based on the time slot chosen, but will be shown in checkout. Pickup is always free. They do not charge monthly or annual subscription fees for this service and do not charge any markups on grocery items.