AS YOUR local MSP, I want to take the opportunity of my regular column in the Alloa Advertiser to raise awareness of the Food Train – a multi-award-winning Scottish charity which provides a vital grocery delivery service to older housebound people living in a number of areas across Scotland.

I first became aware of the Food Train several years ago due to its work in the Bridge of Allan and Dunblane areas of my constituency, and I saw first hand the benefits and impact of the service when I joined a local volunteer on their regular delivery route.

I am delighted it is now being rolled out within Clackmannanshire – a move that I have been pleased to lend my support to.

The aim of the Food Train is to support older people to live independently in their own homes for as long as they wish and are able to do so and fits well with our local aims in this area. Their services address the difficulties many older people can face in getting their weekly grocery shopping, while also aiming to provide a wide range of supported volunteering opportunities for people of all ages and abilities.

The core service provides older adults with access to fresh and affordable groceries, delivered direct to their home as required. Volunteers collect shopping lists either in person, by phone or by email. They make up customer orders in the local supermarket then deliver the food and groceries, unpacking and putting things away where needed. This gives people the ability to order the items they want, supporting them to retain their own independence and continue living in their own homes and communities.

Initially, the service is being rolled out in Menstrie, Tullibody, Tillicoutry, Alva, Sauchie, Alloa and Clackmannan. Anyone over the age of 65 living in these areas, who has difficulty doing their grocery shopping due to ill health, disability, frailty or mobility problems, can enjoy the benefits of the Food Train. There is an annual membership fee of £1 and the cost is £5 per delivery. Once the service is established in these initial areas, the plan is to extend it to the rest of Clackmannanshire.

Another service offered by the Food Train is Meal Makers a local food-sharing project that connects people who love cooking and who are happy to share an extra portion of home cooked food with an older neighbour who would appreciate a hot meal and a friendly chat.

If you or someone you know needs help with shopping, you would like further information or if you are interested in becoming a volunteer helper, please email or call 01786 450 536.

As reported in the Advertiser in October, the service has been extended to Clackmannanshire thanks to support from SP Energy Networks via their Green Economy Fund in the form of a grant to provide a new fleet of electric vehicles locally and to allow the Food Train to expand its reach of providing practical support to older adults through the recruitment of a local development officer.

Last year, the Scottish Government released its strategy for tackling social isolation and loneliness, A Connected Scotland, which will be a crucial part of wider efforts to strengthen our social and community bonds.

With work, starting this year, we can ensure that every individual feels valued as an important part of society and organisations like the Food Train will play an important part, and I look forward to having the opportunity of joining local volunteers in Clackmannanshire over the coming months.