Grocery pickup program pushing to alleviate food insecurity among disabled students

Media Credit: Chuckie Copeland I Photographer

Students noticed narrow aisles could pose mobility difficulties for people with wheelchairs or crutches, who would also need to pass through a heavy door at the main entrance of The Store.

The Store and the Disabled Students Collective are teaming up to initiate a student-run grocery pickup program in District House this semester to combat food insecurity among disabled students.

The collaborative program will supply free pre-bagged groceries for students who fill out an online request form in an effort to address accessibility issues that DSC members identified within The Store earlier this fall, like narrow shelving aisles and heavy doors. Student leaders with DSC and organizers from The Store said they hope the program – which opened for pickup orders in October and is waiting to receive requests – takes strides in making the campus more accessible they hope the program.

Lauren Anne Wall – the communications director for the Disabled Students Collective – said she helped propose the accessibility program after a member visited The Store in Septemberand noticed areas that would be inaccessible to students with disabilities. She said the student noticed that narrow aisles could pose mobility difficulties for people with wheelchairs or crutches, who would also need to pass through a heavy door at the main entrance that lacks any automated door button.

Wall said students often claim supplies at The Store following its weekly restocks, but many disabled students combat general fatigue and unexpected symptom flare-ups that may prevent them from accessing The Store before supplies deplete. She said the program can help disabled students receive equal access to The Store’s offerings through the online request form, which can be submitted days in advance of pick-up.

“If somebody has a really hard time in the mornings, or on that particular week they’re having more of a flare, that means that even if they could get into the room, they’re not going to be able to get there in a timely fashion,” Wall said.

Wall said the program aims to resemble the design of a personal shopper program, like services offered by companies like Instacart, in which an organizer at The Store pre-packs requested groceries to be picked up at a later time.

She said people with disabilities often disproportionately face food insecurity because of lower average income levels and mobility challenges. The Department of Agriculture reported that disabled Americans faced food insecurity at more than double the rate of individuals without disabilities in 2020.

“I think that it doesn’t get talked about enough, and it often gets overlooked, especially at GW because it’s such a nice, fancy school,” Wall said. “But just because it costs a lot of money doesn’t mean that the people who go here all have a lot of money.”

She said she hopes the new grocery pickup program with The Store can push efforts to destigmatize food insecurity and widen accessibility to the forefront of GW’s priorities.

“We want people to know that we’re here for them because I think that a lot of disabled students don’t realize that they have this huge support team,” Wall said. “There are 12 of us on our e-board now, and we’re all here to be of service and to help.”

Sua Cho Jung, the co-president of The Store, said The Store is still in the process of finalizing details of the program like the logistics behind the physical handoff of the groceries and general interest among students.

“We’re in the process of determining with the DSC how many members of the DSC would like to pickup food offered by the Store and what the most convenient locations/times/dates would work for those individuals,” she said in an email.

Andrew Sonn, the director of Military and Veteran Student Services and the staff adviser for The Store, said he, along with The Store’s organizers, hopes to see a lasting relationship and continued collaboration with the DSC following this new offering.

“I think it was a great idea, and I think we all agree that it will help students in the end,” Sonn said.

Sonn said The Store hasn’t received any grocery requests for pre-bagged groceries so far after opening the request form in late October, but organizers are prepared to accommodate students’ needs as orders are placed.

“I think this is an important enhancement,” Sonn said. “Whenever suggestions from students come, we do our best to accommodate them and to accept them.”

Brooke Forgette contributed reporting.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.