New Support for Older People in The Highlands Amid Unprecedented Demand for Help

Pictured: A Food Train volunteer carrying out a supermarket shop.

Food Train charity expands lifeline shopping service to more communities to help greater numbers of people live independently in their homes

A charity which has ensured thousands of older Scots forced into isolation during the coronavirus lockdown have not gone without critical shopping supplies is expanding its lifeline services across the Highlands.

Food Train, which has in recent weeks seen unprecedented national demand for its work to help over-65s who are unable to manage independently – many of them disabled or suffering from ill health – is encouraging people to register for a new home shopping service.

Food Train Connects, which launches today (MON) – the beginning of Volunteers Week – will match volunteers with older people who need help getting their weekly groceries on a one-to-one basis.

It is a move which the charity hopes will be of benefit in expanding the reach of its work to communities in the Highlands where it does not currently have a physical branch covering the region but where it knows there is a demand for such an operation.

It is working with third sector contacts in the area to support matching those who sign up for shopping with volunteer shoppers.

Food Train Connects is an extension of the organisation’s award-winning shopping and delivery service, where teams of volunteers deliver van-loads of groceries to many people and store them away if needed.

It will see over-65s matched with a specific volunteer shopper in their area who will carry out weekly grocery trips for them.

The individual match means Food Train can reach people even in areas where it does not currently operate a physical branch with vans on the road.

Morna O’May, Food Train Connects National Development Officer, said:

“The demand from older people needing help with their shopping has never been greater because of the restrictions which have had to be put in place because of Covid-19 and our volunteers are making a real difference to lives by getting support to those who need it.

“However, the pandemic has highlighted what, for many, is a routine challenge in their lives to make sure they have the essentials for living in their cupboards.

“That is why we want to expand our operation to places including communities in the Highlands and believe Food Train Connects is the ideal way to do this.

“Communities are doing a brilliant job of helping those around them by getting groceries to them at this time.

“The aim of our service is to fill any gaps there may be in this provision – as well as providing a long-term operation which will get food to peoples’ homes even after the current restrictions are lifted.

“We already have volunteers signed up.

“They’re ready to help us improve the quality of life for more older people in their own homes and we want anyone who thinks they or someone they know would benefit from this new service to get in-touch.

“We’re here to help.”

Food Train has seen a record-breaking 60% increase in people using its established grocery shopping service since the start of the coronavirus crisis.

Its team of volunteers and staff are now ensuring groceries reach 3,045 people across nine Scottish regions, compared to 1,905 before the pandemic.

A huge proportion of them are shielding in their homes to protect themselves from the illness.

As well as intensifying its shopping service during the coronavirus lockdown – with volunteers adhering to public health guidance at all times – Food Train has carried out more than 4,300 check-in calls with over-65s as part of its national befriending project and has continued to deliver hundreds of meals nationally every week as part of its Meal Makers scheme.

Since the start of the pandemic, the number of shopping service volunteers supporting the existing Food Train operation has risen from about 800 to almost 1,100.

It has secured increased cash support from the Scottish Government and other funders to ensure demands on the service can be met.

This has included employing a small number of temporary support staff.

To find out about how Food Train Connects could help you or someone you know, email shopping@thefoodtrain.co.uk or call 0800 3047924.

To register as a volunteer, go to www.thefoodtrain.co.uk.