Home Delivery Program Goes the Distance
If you bring it to them, they will eat. And eat they do, with a joyful sense of relief and a grateful smile at the door. In our ongoing mission to erase local hunger, the Pantry has added a Home Delivery program in an effort to meet the needs of homebound seniors who are physically unable to make the monthly trip to the Pantry.
Adriana Riano, Pantry Program Coordinator, oversees the pilot program, which took off in February. “After our success with Summer Meals, we discovered that people are not always going to come to us. There are many shapes and forms of hunger in different populations, whether they’re children, adults or senior citizens. We work constantly to find these pockets of need and create programs to help people receive more food throughout the month,” explains Riano. Home Delivery seemed the next logical step.
In order to avoid case management, the Pantry reached out to the Oak Park Township, whose Meals on Wheels program currently serves one hot meal per day to 180 homebound seniors – the exact market the pantry hoped to serve by providing groceries the seniors could use to make the rest of the meals they need. With the township’s dietician and assessments in place listing dietary restrictions, pantry staff saw this collaboration as a great opportunity. Starting with 20 clients, the Pantry prepares a list of grocery options. As the township forwards referrals, Riano adds them to the list for home delivery. “Currently, the program runs once per month, with 5 routes, 5 clients each, but our eventual goal is to serve 50 clients,” Riano explains.
Two days before delivery, Riano receives the available food lists, and develops a list of grocery options. Volunteers call seniors the next day to select the groceries they would like to receive. On delivery day, volunteers bag food for each senior, and two-person driving teams deliver the groceries to seniors at their homes.
Positive reactions abound from volunteers and clients, alike. Thom Schouten, 8-year pantry volunteer, serves as crew chief for Home Delivery. “Most of these folks are pretty much alone, and we provide something more than just food delivery when we take a few minutes to visit and ask how they’re doing. This makes a big difference to them, and is very fulfilling for us,“ he explains. Riano adds, “When we call about menus, the clients are very grateful, and hesitate to decline anything, but we want to make sure they’re going to use the food. If this chicken is too big, we’ll get you something smaller; you’ve got too much pasta, I’ll give you rice.” Over time, Riano is prepared to face any potential program glitches, whether they involve weather challenges or funding concerns. It’s all part of going the distance against hunger.