For low-income seniors, getting healthy food is a challenge. Hunger Task Force uses DoorDash to help.

Feb 23, 2024

By: Sophie Carson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Hunger Task Force food deliveries to seniors in need are done by DoorDash

Juana Artiza always has plans for the food that arrives at her apartment monthly in a sturdy cardboard box from the Hunger Task Force.

She will add cottage cheese to the can of fruit cocktail for a snack, and she’ll mix the elbow macaroni with the canned ground beef and tomatoes for a filling dinner. She can slice off some of the two-pound block of cheese and melt it for a quesadilla.

The shelf staples, which also include cartons of milk, peanut butter and soup, fill a crucial gap in Artiza’s diet. With grocery store prices so high, she struggles to stretch food stamp dollars each month to buy enough healthy food to manage her diabetes. And since she has intense knee pain that makes it hard to get around, the deliveries are easier than trekking to a senior dining site to pick up what’s known as a Stockbox.

The food is more than just nutrition for Artiza. It’s a reassurance: “I’m not going to go hungry,” she said.

Artiza is one of about 1,500 Milwaukee-area residents 60 and older whose federally funded Stockboxes are dropped at their door by a DoorDash delivery driver, an innovation the local food bank Hunger Task Force started during the COVID pandemic and has seen value in continuing.

“This is a unique solution to a real basic need,” said Sherrie Tussler, chief executive officer of Hunger Task Force.

Food box helps woman fill dietary gaps, stretch dollars

A native of El Salvador, Artiza’s life has not been easy. Now 63, she raised three children as a single mother in Los Angeles while working two jobs as a certified nursing assistant and caregiver.

Her health has declined in recent years. In addition to diabetes, she has high blood pressure and gout. A few years ago, after living for a time in Puerto Rico with her partner, Mariano, the two returned to the U.S. mainland, and then both discovered they had cancer.

“I got so scared when the doctor told me, ‘You need to take care of yourself,'” Artiza said.

That can be a difficult task for many seniors in poverty, with inflation at the grocery store and extra pandemic-era federal food benefits ending last year. Last March, Foodshare benefits for seniors and people with disabilities returned to as low as $23 a month.

People often become poorer as they get older, Tussler noted. As they retire, they are hit with higher medical costs and living expenses.

Artiza’s food benefits go quickly each month, especially when she buys fruits and vegetables, she said.

She feels frustration and shame at her situation, but also gratitude at those who help her make ends meet, she said. One example: Casey Gott, the Hunger Task Force employee who runs the Stockbox DoorDash program.

“Sometimes it’s like angels appear in your life,” Artiza said.

Food box program kind of a modernized ‘Meals on Wheels’

In all, nearly 11,000 people in the Milwaukee area receive a monthly Stockbox. Those who don’t get the boxes from a DoorDash driver pick them up at senior dining sites or at subsidized senior living facilities.

It’s part of a U.S. Department of Agriculture program designed to “address the health problems of an aging person,” Tussler said. Foods are selected for their nutritional value. Each box always has a dairy product for strong bones, low-sodium vegetables, and foods high in protein, among other requirements.

And aside from a two-pound block of American cheese, which comes from the USDA’s cheese supply and must be refrigerated, all the food in the box is shelf-stable. It’s all either ready-to-eat or doesn’t take much preparation. There’s about $75 worth of food in the box, Tussler estimated.

Delivered by DoorDash, the boxes are a kind of “modernized Meals on Wheels,” Tussler said. Older people who need a helping hand getting food but might not require the daily, prepared meals and wellness checks of Meals on Wheels are perfect for the DoorDash program.

Delivery drivers are a key part of the process

Each morning, Gott and other staff and volunteers tape sheets of paper with seniors’ names to dozens of Stockboxes sitting on pallets in Hunger Task Force’s West Milwaukee warehouse. By 9 a.m., DoorDash drivers begin arriving.

In their delivery apps, the request to pick up food at the warehouse pops up like it would any other restaurant order. But here, they come away with a carful of boxes and a route to deliver them. Gott explains to each driver what they should do, and who is receiving the boxes. She asks the drivers to be a bit more patient than usual, and to try calling the seniors’ cell phones when they arrive instead of sending their customary text messages.

One driver, Nouphanh Aphaivan, said he accepted the Hunger Task Force request earlier this month out of curiosity.

He thought, “I wonder what they’re selling.” Then he arrived and realized, “They’re giving!”

Those receiving the food must have a smartphone with the DoorDash app, or have a relative or friend who can operate the app for them. On the app, people get a notification when their box is being delivered. Using the technology hasn’t been as much of a barrier for older people as some expected, Tussler said.

The program began in August 2020 when the United Way partnered with DoorDash. Together they gave a number of free deliveries to Hunger Task Force. Since the pandemic has waned, though, both those partners stopped funding the delivery portion of the program.

“We were faced with either telling a thousand seniors that they couldn’t get their box delivered anymore, or taking on those costs ourselves,” Tussler said.

It is now funded by donations to Hunger Task Force. The costs work out to about $4.50 per delivery.

“There are lot of older adults that were depending on this, and we’re not going to let them down,” Tussler said.


Source: Hunger Task Force program has DoorDash drivers deliver food to seniors (

Hunger Task Force is Milwaukee’s Free & Local food bank and Wisconsin’s anti-hunger leader. The organization’s core values are Dignity, Justice, Equity, Compassion and Stewardship. Hunger Task Force feeds people today by providing healthy and culturally appropriate food to hungry children, families and seniors in the community absolutely free of charge. Hunger Task Force also works to end future hunger by advocating for strong public policies and nutrition programs at the local, state and federal level.