Many seniors wish to age in their own homes but struggle to buy and prepare the food they enjoy. To address this, a new grocery delivery service, Full Plate Care, will soon be piloted in Cape Breton.

Full Plate Care will begin an eight-week pilot in May in partnership with Loblaws and two home care agencies: The Cape Breton Homemaker Association and VON Cape Breton

The pilot will source 100 families from its home care partners and use Loblaws' click and collect program so patients, families or helpers can place their grocery orders online through the Full Plate app and have a member deliver the groceries and put them away.

“For those aging in place with minimum homecare supports our service could be as basic as ensuring difficult packaging is removed, freshness seals popped, and everything stored away where they like,” said founder Jay McNeil. 

“For most home care clients though, the opportunity is for us to assist the home care agency in delivering on their meal preparation commitments to their client families.” 

McNeil said at-home caretakers and VONs normally prepare at least a meal a day for clients but they are not responsible for ensuring food is in the residence. Full Plate Care would eliminate the worry of not having favourite staples in the pantry.

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“Those are the low-level barriers that the medical field identifies as healthy indicators of aging at home, nothing else changes and that’s super important,” he said.

“It’s also about more than just food and meals, it’s about personal hygiene and pharmacy products, household cleaning supplies, and everything that’s needed to support the client as they age in place at home.” 

McNeil said it’s important that seniors continue to eat the foods they enjoy. 

“You look at services that deliver a healthy meal to your door, and as the son who lived away from an aging parent, I was super excited about that until I realized my mother still wants instant mashed potatoes and fried bologna and not asparagus with a blue cheese vinaigrette reduction. In her aging in place she’s not going to change her consumer patterns.”

After winning $31,250 through Innovacorp’s Spark Innovation Challenge in November, Full Plate conducted a mini pilot and narrowed its customer demographic from a personalized grocery service open to all, to deliveries for people who are aging in place.  The long-term goal is to build an app that would inventory and manage grocery orders.

McNeil said that if he had started programming on day one, he would have built a solution that wouldn’t fit what the market now appears to need.

McNeil previously worked at Newcap Radio in Fredericton, where he was a morning host and sales and marketing manager.  He knew his own venture would take careful time and planning to address customer needs.

“Because of my marketing background, I’m obsessed with the customer,” said McNeil. “When I got into sales I watched a ton of businesses build the store they wanted to work in rather than the one customers wanted to shop in, so I just came into this with a stubbornness to rigorously test all of the assumptions.”

McNeil said the Atlantic provinces need to better serve their aging populations. He said Cape Breton is the perfect sandbox for anyone who is testing a product or service for this growing demographic.