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Ōtautahi Christchurch Leading the Way in Helping Elderly and Vulnerable

Ōtautahi Christchurch’s innovative spirit has lent itself to the creation of a service to ensure our elderly and most vulnerable stay safe – and fed.

On Thursday, the Student Volunteer Army (SVA) launched a grocery delivery service for the elderly and vulnerable, starting in Ōtautahi Christchurch. It will soon roll out in Dunedin and Auckland.

Sam Johnson, SVA founder, said the spirit that spurred more than 11,000 students to lend a hand after the 2010-2011 earthquakes was still strong in Christchurch.

Johnson said they partnered with Foodstuffs South Island to launch SVA Grocery Delivery, an online service for the elderly and families of healthcare workers unable to safely shop for groceries. A pilot scheme with New World Ilam successfully delivered groceries to 100 people.

The same motivation that has always existed in Christchurch is there, you know, people want to do the right thing, and this provides an avenue for people to do that.

Sam Johnson, SVA Founder

The service is hosted on, where eligible people can order and pay for groceries. Volunteers then go to supermarkets to pick out selected items.

“We’ve cut no corners when it comes to the safety of our volunteers and our customers, and we have a rigorous screening process for both customer and volunteer,” he said.

Volunteers wore appropriate personal protective equipment and never came into contact with customers. Online payment eliminated the need for physical interaction when volunteers personally delivered the goods.

“It’s been popular with people who live by themselves. One lady who’d been in self-isolation for some time told us just seeing a cheery face walk up her street was the best thing she’d seen in weeks,” he said.

“We’ve got the website back end to enable us to do it, and we’re looking forward to seeing where this could lead. We identified this as a problem to solve even before coronavirus, so it’s great to put a system in place, especially during these times,” Johnson said.

Foodstuffs South Island was donating funds to SVA to enable the scaling and roll out of the service and CEO Steve Anderson said “we all need to be looking out for each other right now”.

“This is a great way we can collaborate with the SVA to support our elderly and vulnerable customers to get their grocery supplies, while making sure they stay safe, at home,” Anderson said.

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Student Volunteer Army Grocery Shopping For Those Who Can't

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