Online Program

Baltimore's virtual supermarket program: An innovative approach to increasing senior citizens' access to healthy and affordable groceries

Wednesday, November 6, 2013 : 12:30 p.m. - 12:42 p.m.

Laura Fox, MPH, Office of Policy and Planning, Baltimore City Health Department, Baltimore, MD
Eric Jackson, MSW, Office of Policy and Planning, Baltimore City Health Department, Baltimore, MD
Nadine S. Braunstein, PhD, RD, LDN, Office of Collaborative Programs, Towson University, College of Health Professions, Towson, MD
BACKGROUND: Eighteen percent of seniors (65+) in Baltimore live within a food desert. Seniors are acutely impacted by food deserts because they often have impaired mobility, lack transportation, suffer from chronic medical conditions, and are on fixed incomes. The Baltimore City Health Department's (BCHD) Virtual Supermarket Program (VSP) provides access to healthy and affordable groceries weekly at senior residential developments using an online grocery ordering system with free delivery. METHODS: The VSP is the only program that uses online grocery ordering in low-income communities. The VSP is a community-run program in which residents living in senior/disabled housing units can place and receive online grocery orders in their own building. BCHD provides technical assistance and promotional support. RESULTS: Preliminary results indicate that more than 30% of the residents living in the senior buildings use the program, and over 60% of customers return at least twice. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this program also promotes a social/communal setting; some seniors have created social events around food access and healthy eating, thus increasing social cohesion. DISCUSSION: Senior citizens residing in food deserts are particularly vulnerable because of mobility and resource limitations. Resident-led VSP projects are a low-cost community-based approach to access and purchase healthy foods. The VSP is a replicable model that can be implemented in senior residential buildings in other urban food desert communities.

Learning Areas:

Chronic disease management and prevention
Conduct evaluation related to programs, research, and other areas of practice
Program planning

Learning Objectives:
Demonstrate how online ordering can improve senior nutrition. Evaluate how bulk delivery of groceries to community sites contributes to a food desert elimination strategy. Discuss how seniors running their own program increase social cohesion.

Keyword(s): Food and Nutrition, Elderly

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the Program Director of the Virtual Supermarket Program. I oversee all aspects of the Virtual Supermarket Program and have been the Director since July 2010.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.

Back to: 5142.0: Nutrition and Aging