Sep. 23—The boxes of food can be heavy or maybe transportation is an issue.
Whatever the roadblock standing in the way of a senior citizen being able to pick up items from the Westmoreland County Food Bank, there's now an answer — delivery.
A partnership with online food ordering and delivery service DoorDash will help get boxes of food to seniors around the county and state. Pennsylvania's Second Lady Gisele Fetterman said, of 300,000 seniors eligible, only 11% are signed up through the state's Senior Food Box Program.
"We know that food insecurity is not a distribution issue, we know it is a logistics issue, and seniors being the most vulnerable," she said Thursday at the Salem food bank. "This is, I think, such an example — what more can we do, how more can we be creative and it's a great first step."
State officials announced the partnership among Hunger-Free Pennsylvania, Feeding Pennsylvania, DoorDash and a network of food banks. Locally, food banks in Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland counties are among those participating in the initiative.
Jennifer Miller, CEO of the Westmoreland County Food Bank, said seniors can pick up food boxes monthly either at the Salem headquarters or a community food pantry. Under the new partnership, a DoorDash driver will take the boxes directly to the home of a senior who requests delivery.
The food bank can assist a maximum of 1,400 seniors through the program, she said. There are about 1,300 seniors currently signed up. Any senior citizen who wants to have their box delivered must notify the food bank.
"We know that this program is going to be very successful and we look forward to its growth here in Westmoreland County," Miller said.
In addition, the food bank is seeking volunteers to help deliver food boxes to seniors in communities where DoorDash doesn't have drivers under an Adopt A Senior program. The new DoorDash partnership "closes one of the gaps that we all know exist — that's the access point, that's the transportation point," said Russell Redding, secretary of the state Department of Agriculture.
"We know that, in those communities, our seniors are most vulnerable," he said. "Part of it's age, part of it's technology, there's transportation issues, there's health concerns, there's loneliness, there's stigma .... there are multiple components to making it even more difficult for the seniors."
DoorDash will pay its drivers for the deliveries under Project DASH, a nationwide effort to connect food banks and pantries with their clients.
"Project DASH deliveries are completed just like any other DoorDash delivery, which makes it both easy and accessible and also ... encourages how normal it can be to access charitable food," said Brittany Graunke, DoorDash Drive's director of government and nonprofit.
That can also eliminate any stigma associated with asking for help, she said.
The Pennsylvania Senior Food Box Program is open to people who are at least 60 and meet income requirements. The boxes include items such as pasta, peanut butter and cereal. Information on how to apply for the program is available online at agriculture.pa.gov/seniorfoodbox or by calling 1-800-468-2433.
Anyone currently participating in the Westmoreland County Food Bank's Senior Food Box Program must notify the food bank if they want to receive a DoorDash delivery at 724-468-8660.
Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta at 724-837-5374, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .