No one should have to worry where their next meal is coming from. It is an understatement to say COVID-19 changed the way the world functions, especially in creating uncertainty. Today more than 37 million people in the US- including 11 million children and 5.5 million seniors are facing food insecurity (Feeding America, 2020).
The transportation industry was required to make profound changes in a very short period of time. As the COVID-19 crisis evolves, our transit partners in Oregon at Tillamook County Transportation District/NW Rides and Sunset Empire Transit are responding to the need to help seniors and disabled persons who are unable to receive food and essential items in their usual ways due to the barriers COVID-19 created. With food banks and the services they provided becoming non-essential, it’s imperative that agencies continue to deliver meals to those in need.
“There was an elderly couple eating leaves off their garden plants for two days before their meal box delivery arrived,” said Jennifer Geisler, Paratransit Supervisor for Sunset Empire Transit in response to a story she was told about a couple who was unable to receive their usual meal delivery services. “It was devastating to hear,” continued Geisler.
Geisler wanted to be proactive but she was unsure of how to proceed. She saw an email from Ecolane on using existing customer resources and software to set-up food and essential item deliveries in her community. Upon viewing the webinar, she knew how she could make a difference in Clatsop County. After some training from Ecolane’s Technical Trainers, the agency was ready to have the meal delivery service set-up and running.
“I’m so grateful to Ecolane for coming up with this and it’s so easy to use, it just fell together,” commented Geisler.
After getting all the preliminary information and watching the webinar, the first piece was to set up all the routes so people could receive their meal boxes. Drivers would then go the food bank and have boxes loaded into the vehicles and head out to drop off for deliveries. Vehicles can be mirrored with existing ones to allow for greater capacity than that of normal vehicles, for example Bus 10A can take 12 People but Bus 10A-Meals can take 200 meals. Groups have shown helpful in adding stops for meal pickup and drop off at distribution centers as well as assisting scheduling in determining the best run for each meal.
Now in their third week of deliveries, SET/NW Rides were able to share the heartfelt stories of how 30 pound meal boxes are changing lives. One rider who was dropped off from her doctor’s appointment at the same times her meal box was delivered told Geisler she was so excited to eat good food again.
“To hear her say she was excited to eat, we know we are doing a good thing,” says Geisler.
With over 900 pounds of food delivered, transit workers have seen firsthand the happiness from their riders. While going along on rides, Geisler witnesses the trickledown effect of meal box recipients sharing the food with their neighbors. “It was smiles all around,” says Geisler.
Cathy Bond, Brokerage Manager at Tillamook County Transportation District/NW Rides knows how to get through a crisis with Tillamook county experiencing floods once a year. Bond spoke to some of the challenges with transit agencies suspending regular services due to the pandemic.
“Ridership is low, we are used to having 400 trips a day and are down to about 50 or 60 trips a day, however, there is excitement during board meetings that the transit software technology is in place to use during this time and when this is all over,” says Bond.
Ecolane can assist your agency and members of your community quickly and efficiently by tracking the delivery of meals much as we would track passengers riding a vehicle. If requested, an agency can create a new company on their site to separate statistics. Alternative funding sources and billing can be added as needed. In addition, new runs, vehicles, service areas and groups can be setup to ensure the success of these agencies.
“Transit is not just about ensuring people arrive from one place to another it is about a community of individuals who care and who do what they need to do to assist others. Ecolane’s resources are made to be flexible and dynamic so that in times of need our customers can adapt quickly to the changes in their environment, just like our software does,” said Ecolane CEO, Steve Ross.
Food banks across the country are seeing a 70% average increase in requests for emergency food assistance. The need is great and we are so thankful to people like Jennifer and Cathy, the network of food banks, countless volunteers, donors, drivers who deliver much needed food and supplies, and each everyday hero who has played a part in stepping up to face this challenge. (Feeding America , 2020)
Cathy Bond of Tillamook County/NW Rides sums it up best, “NW Rides has always been committed to giving the best we can to our members and the communities they live in. It’s an honor to help meet additional needs during this crisis. We are here to serve!”
For more information, or to enact one of these measures simply reach out by calling 844-ECO-LANE, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or logging on and entering a ticket helpdesk.ecolane.com.
Ecolane is created for transit people by transit people, in order to suit the unique needs of our customers. Serving as a catalyst at the intersection between demand-response and on-demand transportation, Ecolane software works by automatically adapting to changes in schedules and conditions as they are happening in real-time on the day of service. For more than 18 years, Ecolane has proudly served our partners and their communities while simultaneously expanding reach. With more than 200 partners across the globe, Ecolane has proven to be the provider of choice for the future of the transit industry. For more information on how Ecolane can help your paratransit or on-demand transportation agency grow in ridership and increase operational efficiency, visit us at www.ecolane.com.