In-home food ordering app receives innovation award

“Alexa, I need carrots.”

Kayla Hower, center, an integrated care specialist with MARC’s Department of Aging and Adult Services, accepted the Aging Innovations Award from Mark Henry, director of LTC & HCBS contracting with WellCare Health Plans, Inc. (award sponsor), and Deborah Stone-Walls, n4a president.

For nearly two years, the Mid-America Regional Council’s Area Agency on Aging has pilot-tested a smart speaker app that can be used by eligible clients to order food from the comfort of their own home. The app uses voice commands through an Amazon Echo smart speaker to open the “Show-Me Pantry” ordering system so participants can request items from various food groups.

The food app test project, formally entitled Connecting Home-Delivered Meals Clients to Food Pantry Resources Using Smart Speaker Technology, was recently recognized by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a) with a 2019 Aging Innovations Award. The award recognizes aging programs that develop and implement cutting-edge approaches to support older adults, people with disabilities and their family caregivers.

Participants in the food app pilot project used prompts such as, “Order the food you need for the next two weeks,” and, “Each package of carrots has three carrots; how many packages would you like to order?” Orders were filled by partner food pantries and delivered by other partner organizations. Although the pilot project is now over, the results show that this kind of technology can be successfully used in the future to benefit the lives of high-risk older people.