AUSTIN (KXAN) — A new grocery delivery program was launched for people over 55 and those with compromised immune systems to encourage the at-risk groups to stay home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

capmetro produce delivery
A CapMetro driver delivers bags of groceries to a woman in southeast Austin on Tuesday, April 7, 2020. (KXAN Photo/Chris Davis)

Austin-based produce delivery service Good Apple, along with CapMetro and the Austin Transportation Department, are partnering with the HOPE Food Pantry in Hyde Park to provide bags of fresh fruits and vegetables, along with shelf-stable goods, to hundreds of families every day. They’re calling the program “Stay Home, Stay Healthy.”

You can apply for the delivery service here. It’s available across CapMetro’s service area.

“[Fresh produce is] one of those things that’s a little harder for folks to get their hands on right now,” said Chad Ballentine, CapMetro’s vice president of demand response.

The new initiative expands on a program CapMetro, H-E-B and the Central Texas Food Bank started last month, delivering shelf-stable products to people eligible for MetroAccess, the transportation company’s service for people with disabilities. Between the two programs, the agency is now delivering groceries equal to 4,500 meals to nearly 400 families every day.

“And that means that many folks can just stay at home and stay healthy,” Ballentine said.

‘We really need the help right now’

Tuesday morning, CapMetro employees gathered at the HOPE Food Pantry to load several MetroAccess buses with bags of food. Reusable red bags filled with items came from the pantry, while Good Apple brought brown paper bags stuffed with fresh fruits and veggies.

CapMetro employees load MetroAccess buses with bags of groceries at HOPE Food Pantry in Hyde Park on Tuesday, April 7, 2020. (KXAN Photo/Chris Davis)

Drivers, outfitted with face masks and gloves, headed off to different corners of CapMetro’s service area, stopping at each house on their lists and delivering the bags of groceries to people’s doorsteps.

Eli Diaz got her first delivery in southeast Austin Tuesday. With a family of six, she goes through a lot of groceries. “When I cook, I got to cook up lots of food,” she laughed.

The delivery meant a lot to her, and not just because it means her family is able to stay home more.

“We really need the help right now because my husband is working less hours and he’s the only person who works right now,” Diaz said, “and I got four kids.”

A growing need

Diaz’s situation reflects a growing need in the region as more families lose income due to the coronavirus outbreak and people are staying home to avoid contracting and spreading the virus.

The Central Texas Food Bank has seen a “drastic increase” in the number of people it serves, even as crucial large-scale donations from grocery stores fall away.

feeding central texas

KXAN on Wednesday launched a new initiative, Feeding Central Texas, a partnership with the Food Bank and H-E-B during the month of April to raise much-needed funds to buy food so they can keep serving the growing number of people who need food assistance. Find more information about those efforts and donate to the cause here.

CapMetro plans to continue delivering groceries as long as they can to help address the needs of older central Texans and those more susceptible to the virus.

Diaz appreciates their efforts. “We’re just trying to be home,” she said, “stay home to be safe.”