Frequently asked questions

Q: How do you select matches?

A: We try to match neighbors in very close proximity to one and other. We hope to establish connections that will last far beyond the pandemic and create more tight-knit communities. In some cases, we don’t have a volunteer within walking distance and will extend our search to a 5-8 minute drive or less.


We usually try to match by gender as well, though if someone is across the street or in the same building we will make that match for the convenience of both parties. We hope that by connecting people who would likely pass on the street in “normal” times, we’re able to trust each other during this challenging time.

Q: What if my match wants me to shop at a specific store that I usually don’t shop at?

A: Some matches need groceries from a specific store because of cost (we have many fixed-income seniors who need to shop at the 99 cent Store, Pak’n’Save, or local food bank sites). Others because of specific dietary needs. We encourage you to accommodate those needs if at all possible. If you’re unable to do that, please let us know and we’ll find another volunteer for your match. 

Q: How often should I expect to hear from my volunteer?

A: We recommend that you establish expectations in the first couple of days of contact. Some recipients just want someone to grocery shop once a week. Others would like a daily or every-other-day call. It’s up to you to determine how you want to work together. 

Q: Can I ask my volunteer to pick up medications?

A: You can absolutely do that, and you can often pay ahead of time at the pharmacy with a credit or debit card. If not, you would follow the same procedures for grocery reimbursement. 

Q: I can't pay for food right now. What are my options?

A: If you're a low-income senior (60+) in Alameda County, please call Mercy Brown Bag at 510-534-8450. Please tell the receptionist you need free groceries, and she'll put in a voicemail box and your call will be returned. Mercy can provide two bags of groceries per month. If you aren't a senior or need additional free groceries, call the Alameda County Food Bank hotline at 510-635-3663. You can also visit to find other resources near you.

Q: Can I ask for a ride as a recipient, or give a ride if I’m a volunteer?

A: Due to the current social distancing needs and liability, we don't facilitate or encourage rides through Oakland at Risk. Paratransit is still available, but we encourage all high-risk community members to leverage their volunteer for any outside needs.