Poly Pantry reaches students through delivery, pick-up services

By Taylor Jaseph, Feb. 8, 2021

With the three-week move to virtual instruction, Cal Poly Pomona’s Poly Pantry created an online delivery service for enrolled students beginning Jan. 18, but a high demand for deliveries required the service to reopen for pick-up on campus Feb. 1.

The Poly Pantry’s delivery service is still in effect until Feb. 11, but it is now limited to students who live 50 or more miles from campus, are quarantined or have accessibility needs.

The Poly Pantry will continue its delivery service until Feb. 11. (Courtesy of Sandra Solano)

Sandra Solano, Poly Pantry manager, believed that not enough students in need were being reached based on low numbers from summer 2021. Solano worked with Instacart — an external grocery delivery service — to create the pantry’s temporary delivery service. But the amount of orders the Poly Pantry received overwhelmed Instacart.

“It was too much for Instacart to handle because we were doing over 200 orders a week, and so we had to change that,” Solano said.

To provide relief to Instacart drivers, the Poly Pantry returned to campus for in-person pick-up Feb. 1. Students who do not meet the criteria for deliveries now have to pick up their order at the Bronco Student Center.

Solano is disappointed the delivery service cannot continue past Feb. 11 and serve all studentsut the pantry does not have the resources to maintain it.

The pantry closed Dec. 24, 2021, and it would have remained closed until Feb. 1, but Solano wanted to reach students in need. Solano checked with her student workers if they were willing to return to campus to open the pantry earlier, and because of this, the pantry didn’t hire new workers for the delivery service. Now, Solano is looking to hire.

The Poly Pantry retained enough funding from the previous year to launch the delivery service. However, in the two weeks of the service being implemented, expenses for covering the deliveries and tipping the drivers exhausted their funds.

“It was almost triple the cost that it normally does cost,” Solano stated about a single order.

Kaitlynn Sosa, psychology student and Poly Pantry employee, explained the online shopping process for both pick-up and delivery. The pantry operates a once-a-week service with a token-based system. Each student is allocated a number of tokens and for each category, such as dairy, students can use two of their tokens to pick out two different items. The Poly Pantry offers a variety of options, and should students use up their tokens, they will have enough food for the week, according to Sosa.

“Being able to work in this, it’s a bit more eye opening and makes me happy that we have this resource here and it’s available,” said Sosa.

Ordering through the Poly Pantry is simple. Students can register through the Poly Pantry website and confirm their eligibility for delivery or choose in-person pick-up. An appointment is required for both options and once confirmed, students can order whatever they need. If the order can be delivered, everything is set to arrive at the address listed. If the order is a pick-up, students go to the BSC at their specified appointment time.

The Poly Pantry employees – such as Sosa and Cheyenne Valderrama – box up the orders. For deliveries, the pantry places the order through its Instacart account, where Instacart will receive and deliver the order.

“In terms of Instacart, I remember our Excel sheet had about 70 people signed up for the day,” said Valderrama, a mechanical engineering student. “There was a lot more people signing up for the Instacart.”

Solano noticed the sharp increase in students accessing the Poly Pantry because of the delivery service, but ever since the transition to pick-up occurred, the number of orders decreased. Valderrama added this momentary calm is because students are unaware of the move to pick-up for local users and the preference for the delivery service.

Even so, Solan o is adamant she will find a way to keep the delivery service instituted. She is thinking of incorporating student drivers instead of going through a third party, but there are many conditions logistically and insurance-wise preventing the pantry from making the move currently.

With the budget season coming, Solano will present her idea to ASI’s student leaders.

“We have this service and if we can make it better, we are going to continue to do so,” Solano said.

To learn more about the Poly Pantry and how to order, CPP students can visit its website.

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