A small group of UC Santa Barbara students formed a grocery rideshare program last month under the Food For All Coalition, hoping to improve food accessibility for those on campus.
The group uses Facebook to facilitate students’ transportation to and from local grocery stores, according to Gabriel Etaat, food insecurity research intern and third-year economics and environmental studies double major.
The idea for a grocery rideshare group was modeled after existing rideshare groups like the UCSB/Socal Rideshare group on Facebook, Etaat said. Rides can cost anywhere from $3 to $6.
“We thought that same concept could be applied to food security, so we decided to lay out this idea where we create a page for grocery rideshares in the same format,” he said.
CalFresh coordinator and fourth-year psychology major Stephanie Perez also provided pivotal direction in the implementation of the program.
“When I applied for CalFresh, I got approved for the program … but there was another barrier that was stopping me from getting groceries: transportation,” she said.
“This is something that we really need on campus – transportation for students that really need to go to the grocery store.”
Despite several programs on campus that address food insecurity – such as the Associated Students Food Bank – transportation still remains a barrier for many students, Etaat said.
“Getting to places like Costco, Albertsons and Trader Joe’s can be difficult if you don’t have a car,” he said.
According to Nadia Abushanab, a CalFresh advocate and third-year environmental studies major, the idea for the grocery rideshare was sparked during the Food Security Retreat at Hastings Nature Reserve that took place in September.
“In [the retreat] we broke out into groups talking about different problems with food security that we want to address,” Abushanab said.
Melanie Leung, a second-year environmental studies major, used the grocery rideshare group to carpool with three others to Sprouts and Trader Joe’s soon after the page was created.
“I’ve only done it once, but so far it’s been a good experience,” Leung said. “I think it’s a great idea because I find it a waste of gas when I go get groceries alone and feel a little less guilty if I’m bringing others that need to go as well.”
Perez had similar feedback about her experience with the rideshare group.
“I can pay $5 for roundtrip, rather than paying Lyft $10 for one way and $10 for the other way,” she said. “As of now, the rideshare group has been effective for me and I’m glad we got it started.”
Perez says there is potential in the future for the rideshare group to transform into a school-affiliated carpool system.
“We hope there will be enough data from the rideshare group to show that there is a huge number of students who need rides and that transportation is stopping them [from] getting the proper nutrition that they need,” Perez said.
“Eventually we want it to transform into something bigger where the school provides transportation for students to take them to the grocery stores.”
Until then, the group hopes to increase its membership to benefit more of the UCSB community. The group currently has over 400 members.
“We are hoping to pick up momentum and hopefully the message will spread and people will want to engage,” Etaat said.
“This is a mutually beneficial situation. We are very new, but we are hoping to expand a lot.”