The Meijer grocery shuttle, a Central Student Government initiative that last year provided students with a weekly bus shuttle to Meijer, has been discontinued for future use. The service was launched in fall 2016 under former CSG President David Schafer’s administration, which worked closely on the issue of food insecurity on campus.
According to Engineering junior AJ Ashman, CSG chief of staff to the vice president, the program began with a commission within Shafer’s administration in order to assist freshmen who live off campus or who might not be aware of the food options available to them outside of the dining halls. Specifically, a goal of the administration was to help those students of low socioeconomic backgrounds find less expensive food options, as many grocery stores in the heart of campus are more expensive are than those outside of the University of Michigan’s borders.
During the first few weeks of the initiative, Ashman said, CSG paid for the buses —about $800 per bus. With this, they were able to provide one shuttle every other week. Eventually, Meijer noticed high interest among students using the shuttle and offered to pay for the program themselves, which allowed two shuttles to run every week.
This year, however, Meijer discontinued funding as they begin to join recent trends to have groceries delivered directly to homes and students, so as to compete with other delivery services such as Amazon.
“They didn’t see the value in having a bus bring kids to their locations when their real goal was to have students order the groceries and have them delivered to them,” Ashman said.
CSG, unable to provide funding for what would amount to $1,600 per week, decided to cut the program from their budget. This was in order to continue paying for other programs such as Student Organization Funding Commission — which helps fund student organizations — as well as financial aid support.
“We tossed it around for a bit and ultimately decided we just couldn’t, we didn’t want to start it and stop it and we couldn’t eat that cost for a whole semester or a whole year,” Ashman said. “That was going to impact a lot of other stuff we wanted to do which was also important work. We didn’t want to make that commitment.”
Though CSG looked into other ways to provide students with a grocery shuttle, Ann Arbor public buses The Ride currently allow students direct transportation to off-campus grocery stores. Engineering sophomore Olivia Sun used these services last year, and said because of the options available to students she feels the need for a specific shuttle from CSG is not as significant.
“I heard about (the CSG Meijer shuttle), but I never used it,” she said. “I personally don’t see (its discontinuation) as an inconvenience to myself just because I was already able to take a (Ride) Bus to Meijer … since that bus already goes there I don’t see the need for there to be a specific shuttle just to go to Meijer.”
Addressing food insecurities on campus was a large part of the Shafer administration platform and an issue included as part of eMerge’s campaign last spring. CSG committees are currently working on other means to combat the issue, such as providing farmers markets on campus and partnering with dining halls to include fresh produce options within University dining.
“We certainly have not forgotten about the issues of food insecurity and access to healthy foods on this campus,” Ashman said.