For seniors who are in need of ingredients for a good matzah ball soup, CHAI Comprehensive Housing Assistance, Inc. created a mobile grocery program.
CHAI, an agency of The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore, exemplified an impressive swivel to serve new needs during the pandemic. Its mobile grocery program, which began in April, has already delivered food more than 2,518 times to Baltimore seniors.
As soon as shutdowns rocked the nation in March, CHAI snapped to some quick adaptations.
“We started calling clients, conducted brief check-ins, and would proactively refer them to resources,” said Tiffany Nicolette, CHAI’s vice president of aging in community division.
The team realized the main concern was food insecurity. While they could no longer provide its shuttles to grocery stores, CHAI could repurpose the shuttles to deliver food instead.
CHAI partnered with Hungry Harvest to offer fresh produce. So What Else, Inc. donated some produce, too. CHAI itself purchased hygiene products, canned goods, garbage bags, and more for the delivery boxes. The Fund for Educational Excellence’s Covid-19 Food Stability Grant, Herbert Bearman Foundation, and an anonymous donor covered costs.
Recipients were greatly appreciative. One left a voicemail for Nicolette that exclaimed, “Thank you so much for providing healthy fruits and vegetables. I otherwise would be eating salty processed foods. Thanks also for the paper goods that came with it. You are really doing us a valuable service.”
But now, people have slowly started to decline using the service, and instead go out themselves. For those who are still uncomfortable, CHAI offers the service to their hundreds of community members in Cheswolde, Glen, Mt. Washington, Cross Country, Fallstaff, and Pikesville.
The mobile grocery program is part of AgeWell. This is The Associated’s rebranding of older adult services provided by organizations such as CHAI, Jewish Community Services, and CHANA.
“Because of COVID-19, we were forced to quickly collaborate without thinking and planning more,” said Nicolette. “I am just very appreciative that we as a team, at CHAI especially, were able to pivot so quickly and completely change what their daily routine was like.”
The staff itself was literally repurposed as some, like the in-home repairmen, were no longer able to do their original job. “It was really refreshing to see everyone do something out of the normal and excel,” Nicolette said.
“As a staff member, being the one to make the deliveries gives an opportunity to see our clients and have a quick check-in while practicing social distancing,” said Jessica Price, outreach and operations manager of aging in community. “It is also great to work with members of my team and see all our strengths shine through the boxes we deliver.”
CHAI is just now starting to plan how they will phase back into the previous work norms. For now, anything and everything that can be virtual is.
The program will end whenever the need for its existence stops. However, should the virus ramp up again, CHAI may bring it back.