Local Nonprofits Pilot New Grocery Delivery Service for Seniors

Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY and Food Forest partnered to develop a food delivery app in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

CINCINNATI—Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY is launching a new grocery and meal delivery app for local seniors in partnership with Food Forest as part of the nonprofit’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pilot begins this week, and Meals on Wheels hopes to open the program to seniors 60+ in Greater Cincinnati in the next month.

“We are constantly looking for ways to provide local seniors with nutritious food while allowing them to stay safe in their homes throughout this crisis,” said Jennifer Steele, Executive Director, Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY. “We’re excited to pilot a program that will expand delivery options to seniors during a time when it may be difficult to safely access food on their own.”

The Meals on Wheels-branded app is a version of Food Forest’s existing platform, which provides affordable grocery delivery to people living in food desserts, many of whom are low income. Food Forest launched in Walnut Hills in 2019 following the closure of Kroger’s location in that neighborhood.

“This partnership fits into our mission to address food insecurity and make online grocery shopping available to everyone,” said David Curtin, Founder and CEO, Food Forest. “Our goal is to help anyone who has trouble accessing fresh and affordable food, but we’re especially pleased to help seniors who are particularly at risk because of COVID-19.”

Meals on Wheels hopes to leverage donations and grant funding to reduce the cost for low-income seniors once the platform is available to the public, which is expected to be in about one month if the pilot proves successful. In addition, all Food Forest’s services accept SNAP and EBT benefits, unlike many other grocery delivery providers in the area.

Meals on Wheels understands that using new technology may be challenging for some seniors, so the pilot will also include innovations to help seniors understand how to best use the app. Seniors who remain uncomfortable ordering online—or who don’t have access to the necessary technology—will be able to place orders by phone for grocery and meal delivery.

“We’re hopeful that this program will help address the digital divide among older adults,” said Steele. “Seniors often need digital services like this the most but are often the least equipped to take advantage of them without proper support.”

Meals on Wheels and Food Forest will work with other partners to implement the program, including Produce Perks, a nonprofit that doubles grocery orders of fruits and vegetables for individuals using SNAP, as well as various agencies serving seniors in the community, including the Northern Kentucky Area Development District. Kroger’s Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation also provided critical funding to develop the new Meals on Wheels version of Food Forest’s app.

Once the pilot program is complete and the app is adjusted based on the findings, it will be available for download. Food Forest’s existing app is available for individuals and families looking for affordable meal delivery services within an 8-mile radius of Walnut Hills, including most of the urban core and some of Northern Kentucky.