Ernie Harper, Brainerd, shopped for groceries at Super One Foods in Baxter. Groceries With A Friend is a program offered through Lutheran Social Service that will help seniors with their grocery shopping.Brainerd Dispatch/Nels Norquist
A new program in the Brainerd-Baxter area is matching seniors who need a little help with their grocery shopping and volunteers who are willing to take them.
Groceries With A Friend is a program offered through Lutheran Social Service, said Emily Larson, volunteer specialist with LSS's senior nutrition program.
With the large population of senior citizens who are choosing to live independently in their homes, it can sometimes be a struggle for many to make a trip to the grocery store and carry the groceries from the car into their homes.
Larson said Groceries With A Friend will match volunteers with seniors who would like a ride to the grocery store for their weekly shopping trip. The volunteers would pick up and drive seniors to the store, helping them shop or do the shopping themselves. Ultimately, the program is meant to help seniors remain in their homes by helping them make healthy food choices and possibly create a friendship between the senior and volunteer shopper, said Larson.
"I'm very excited about this program," said Larson. "I've worked with seniors for 20 years and to see the needs of so many."
Larson said in the past many seniors were able to rely on help from nearby family members with their shopping. But that help isn't often there anymore as families divorce or live far away. Often seniors aren't receiving proper nutrition because they aren't able to make a big trip to a large grocery store by themselves, said Larson.
That's where the volunteer shopper comes in.
Larson said the program is open to people 60 or older who need help with their grocery shopping. Volunteer shoppers need to drive a reliable vehicle, have proof of insurance and undergo a criminal background check. For now the program is only available in the Brainerd-Baxter area but it may be expanded if there are volunteers and seniors who wish to be matched up in outlying communities, said Larson. Most shopping trips will be once a week or monthly.
The volunteers will undergo a training session for the program while seniors interested in the program will undergo an assessment. A dietitian employed through the senior nutrition program is available to talk to seniors and nutritional information will be given to them to get them thinking about getting the proper amount of daily vitamins and minerals. A volunteer training program likely will be conducted in the coming weeks.
A similar program has been successful in St. Cloud, said Larson.
The program is funded through a grant provided by the Central Minnesota Council on Aging.
For more information on the Groceries With A Friend program, contact Larson at 1-800-488-4146, (218) 864-8229 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
JODIE TWEED can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5858.
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