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*Program Offers Online Grocery Shopping for Seniors

Residents of five North Philadelphia senior housing projects recently received access to free online grocery shopping through a pilot program.

Because there are few supermarkets in the north area of the city, the New Millennium Foundation set up the Electronic Shopping Opportunities Project for the housing developments. The project is funded by a grant from the state's Department of Community Economic Development.

The 90-day test started in mid-November.

Seniors can use one computer in each development to log on to the Net through Internet service provider Black CyberSpace OnLine. At another partner site, EasyGrocer.com, they can click the Brown's Thriftway supermarket bar and place their orders. Brown's Thriftway in Philadelphia picks the orders and delivers them at no charge within 24 hours.

“We are looking to ensure that even our senior citizens have the opportunity to hurdle the digital divide,” said Bernadine Hawes, chairwoman of the North Philadelphia Technology Braintrust, an initiative of the New Millennium Foundation. “We clearly expect this e-commerce project to have a major impact on how to integrate the needs of senior citizens into a digital community.”

Retirees who are computer literate will mentor others who are involved in the project, Hawes said.

Marilyn Jewett, acting manager of the New Millennium Foundation, said the project is part of an overall plan to create an e-business environment in North Philadelphia. “Opportunities for interactive dialogue between businesses and consumers must be included in any serious plan for community economic development,” Jewett said.

At the end of the pilot project, officials will consider expanding the program to other housing developments in Philadelphia. The New Millennium Foundation eventually plans to expand the service to other types of retailers, such as pharmacies, but Jewett said the foundation must get them “used to dealing with one thing at a time.”

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