Hundreds of shopping trips have been made and tens of thousands of hours spent on calls to over-65s in opening 12 months of a charity’s newest operation
Volunteers supporting a one-to-one shopping service ensuring older people do not go without vital shopping supplies have made almost 800 grocery runs in its first year.
The team at Food Train Connects has also spent 23,304 minutes (388 hours) on calls to customers through its Phone Friends to check on their wellbeing during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Their efforts - and the impact they have made in ensuring people have been able to eat well and in tackling loneliness - have been praised today (Tuesday 1 June), 12 months on from the operation’s official launch. This also coincides with the start of Volunteers' Week.
Connects was launched by the Food Train, the charity for older people widely recognised for its delivery service where teams of shoppers and drivers collect and deliver van-loads of groceries to multiple homes, to widen the impact of its work.
Its aim is to support over-65s not already part of the established service, reaching those even in areas where it does not currently operate a physical branch with vans on the road.
The service sees an older person matched with a specific volunteer shopper in their area who carries out weekly grocery trips for them.
Food Train Connects service manager Morna O’May said: “The achievements of our Connects volunteers and team in this first year have been remarkable.
“In the face of a pandemic, we have launched a new national service, responded to a very real need and operated within all government guidelines to support an impressive number of older people.
“We have not only managed to reach those who Food Train might otherwise not have with shopping supplies, but have ensured vital social contact to help tackle loneliness among those who have had to shield in their homes during the pandemic. This makes a real difference to the lives of older people.
“I am so proud of everyone involved. We have had such a positive response across the country, which has given us a great platform on which to build. The Connects service will continue to grow.”
In its first year, Food Train Connects has:
- Helped 178 older people across the country with their shopping and / or made check-in phonecalls to them.
- Amassed a network of 711 volunteers ready to support customers in person or by phone.
- Carried out 773 shops - plus its extensive Phone Friends operation - across 19 local authority regions.
Volunteers are supported by a five-strong staff team.
Andrew Gibson and Norman MacDonald, of Glasgow, are among the pairs matched up as part of the Connects operation.
They recently told their story as part of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations’ (SCVO) #NeverMoreNeeded campaign, showcasing the difference that charities, community groups and social enterprises are making to people and communities during the coronavirus pandemic.
Describing his volunteering, Gibson, who carried out his first shop for MacDonald and his wife Liz in November, said: “It’s nothing, really. Norman will phone me on Thursday evening with his shopping list and give me what they need and I go down to Morrisons in Bishopbriggs on a Saturday morning and collect it. It’s no problem at all.
“It’s nice. You get to chat to them and see how they’re doing, and just make sure they’re doing alright and learn a wee bit about them. They’re a nice couple.
“It feels like you’re looking out for somebody - making sure they keep well. And it’s nice just to build a relationship with people. You don’t want to become the prying do-gooder but it’s nice just to check in on somebody and see they’re alright.”
On the impact of the Connects service, MacDonald added: “What a difference it’s made for me. I’ve got more time now to do things for my wife, like cooking.
“I give Food Train 100% for the service.”
The regions in which Food Train Connects has already worked with older people - via its shopping volunteers and Phone Friends - are: Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Clackmannanshire, Dumfries & Galloway, Dundee, East Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire, Edinburgh, Falkirk, Fife, Glasgow, Midlothian, North Ayrshire, North Lanarkshire, Perth & Kinross, Renfrewshire, Scottish Borders and South Ayrshire.