The Special Occasions Agency and University Student Life Committee recently partnered to pilot a new grocery delivery service on campus this week, according to Special Occasions chair Jean Wang ’16.
The program is geared toward students in independent housing, allowing them to place online orders to the SOA and then receive their groceries shortly thereafter.
The only grocery store currently available to order from is Wegmans, mainly because Wegmans offers a comprehensive list of products on its website, Wang explained. She added that the program is considering Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods Market as later options, but those grocery stores do not have detailed digital interfaces, she said.
Interested students will select a price option on the SOA website, either for $25, $50 or $75. They will then compile a grocery list from Wegmans website and email it to the SOA. Depending on the option they select, they will pick up their groceries from the SOA office or have them delivered to their dorm for an extra charge, Wang said.
The idea was originally created by Carly Jackson ’16, a member of the USLC.
Jackson explained that she was on the USG dining policy committee for the 2013-14 year, but moved to the USLC once the dining policy committee closed. The USLC asked her to start a project related to dining policy, so she said she came up with the idea after thinking about what current students might be interested in. Jackson contacted the Student Agencies to inquire about potential collaboration and eventually connected with the SOA.
Jackson said that the SOA expressed interest in helping to develop the grocery delivery project because the agency provides various delivery services itself, for items such as flowers or baked goods. She added that if the pilot is successful, the SOA will likely end up executing all of the deliveries and most of the technical aspects of the program.
The pilot began this week because enough students expressed interest in the program, Wang explained. The SOA had sent out an interest survey in November, and approximately 270 people responded, many who expressed willingness to pay $5 to $10 as a surcharge for each delivery. Students who expressed interest were invited to participate in the pilot.
One of the most crucial aspects of the program is student interest, Wang explained.
“We’re going to need a critical mass of students for this to really get up and running,” Wang said. “The more people there are, the more we can spread out the costs, and the better we can serve everyone.”
Wang explained that the SOA is still trying to figure out the right price points for students, and how many groceries they might want. If many students order a high amount, the price options might expand to $100 or $150. The SOA is also exploring how to approach getting the groceries themselves and whether there is high enough demand for perishable food or toiletries to include these items in the service.
It is unclear as to whether grocery orders can be placed weekly, bimonthly or even once a month, Jackson added, though once a week appears to be the popular choice among students.
Wang noted that the pilot, likely lasting a few weeks, will be crucial in helping the SOA to figure out the answers to many of these questions and gain important feedback. The program is only allowing 20 or so students to participate currently, allowing the SOA to try out the program on a small scale and resolve any technical problems and logistics, Wang said.
The SOA and USLC aim not to make a profit but rather to increase the options for students who are independent, Jackson explained, adding that she is part of the independent dining plan and is aware that there are few cheap supermarkets in town. The initiative will focus on making the service affordable for students, specifically with as low a surcharge as possible, according to Jackson.
Andrew Chung ’18 explained that he is considering going independent at some point and is excited about the grocery delivery services launch.
“I have always been unsure about going independent, but this really incentivizes anyone with even a little interest,” he said.
Jackson noted that though there are many elements involved in creating the service, a future planning meeting between the USLC and the SOA will help clarify the true status and long-term chances of the program.
Correction: Due to incorrect information provided to The Daily Princetonian, an earlier version of this article misstated the price points for the grocery delivery service. Students can select $25, $50 or $75 options for the program. The 'Prince' regrets the error.