The Collegian
Saturday, December 05, 2020

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Meal Service Round-Up: Students weigh in on alternatives to campus meal plans

Subscribers receive one meal package each week with all necessary ingredients and preparation instructions.
Subscribers receive one meal package each week with all necessary ingredients and preparation instructions.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, some University of Richmond students have turned to meal delivery services to get their groceries. Meal delivery services such as Blue Apron, Hello Fresh and Instacart provide students an alternative to going to the grocery store.

UR Parking Services did not allow first-years to bring cars on campus this year, a policy change shared in a July 17 SpiderBytes message from Natalia Green, director of parking services. Additionally, some students living in off-campus housing, including some students whose study abroad programs were canceled, had the option not to purchase a meal plan on campus and instead buy their own groceries.  Additionally, students living in on-campus apartments are also given the option to not purchase a meal plan

Posted below is a review and students’ opinions on Blue Apron, Hello Fresh and Instacart.

Blue Apron 

Blue Apron is an ingredient and meal delivery service that allows people of all cooking levels to prep and make meals at home, according to its website. Each week, subscribers are sent recipes and all of the fresh ingredients needed to cook them, according to its website

Junior Emma Robinson used a Blue Apron plan with her family in high school for a few dinners each week, she said. 

“It was an easy way to make a healthy and yummy dinner when we were all busy,” she said.

Blue Apron offers dishes with fish, chicken, vegetables and more, according to its website. Subscribers can choose any day of the week to receive a delivery and, if needed, can skip a week or more of meals. Subscribers have the option of a “Signature Plan for 2,” “Vegetarian Plan for 2” or "Signature Plan for 4," according to the Blue Apron plan overview page.

Blue Apron pricing varies from $8.99 to $9.99 per serving depending on the plan, according to the plan overview page.

Blue Apron packages its ingredients with insulated thermal liners and refrigerants to maintain appropriate temperatures during transit and delivery, according to its FAQ page. The website also has a “Recycle” page where subscribers are encouraged to learn the specific materials and containers that can be recycled in Blue Apron packaging. 

Hello Fresh 

Similar to Blue Apron, Hello Fresh allows subscribers to sign up and pick meal preferences from meal options including vegan, vegetarian, calorie-friendly, pescatarian and others. Subscribers can also select specific meals, according to the Hello Fresh website. 

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All of the ingredients needed for the meal are included in the package with preparation and cooking instructions, according to the website.  Hello Fresh also offers sustainable packaging and the option to opt-out of delivery for a week.

Robinson and her apartment-mates look forward to the two nights a week they get to cook their Hello Fresh meals and eat dinner together, she said. 

“There are so many options to choose from and also discounts for students,” she said. 

Whether it is Blue Apron or Hello Fresh, Robinson recommends trying a meal subscription to anyone wanting to switch up their meals easily and affordably, she said.

Sophomore Helene Leichter also used Hello Fresh when she was at home with her family, she said. 

“We didn’t want to go out to the store to get ingredients for a bunch of meals, so Hello Fresh seemed like an easy option,” she said.

Leichter and her family got two meals delivered each week, and it reduced their food waste and allowed them to cook without being exposed to the COVID-19 virus, she said. 

“We aren’t amazing chefs, but it was easy, and we threw out way less ingredients,” Leichter said.

Instacart

Contactless grocery delivery is another option for students who want to reduce their exposure to the COVID-19 virus or do not want to shop for groceries themselves. 

Instacart, one of the grocery delivery services available in Richmond, offers delivery of groceries and other items from Publix, Kroger, CVS, Petco and more, according to its website. Instacart offers same-day delivery for thousands of products, according to its website. 

Delivery fees can differ based on the time and size of an order, but fees start at $3.99, according to Instacart's website. Instacart Express members can get free delivery on orders more than $35. 

Junior Maya Lieberman started using Instacart at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic while she was home in Illinois, she said. Her mom was concerned about potential exposure to the COVID-19 virus and didn’t want her family going into any stores if they could avoid it, Lieberman said.

Eventually, Lieberman’s mom decided to get a subscription to Instacart. It was comforting to her to have the stress of exposure eliminated, Lieberman said. 

“We would order groceries online once a week, and they would be brought to our doorstep usually within two hours,” she said. “Now that I’m back in Richmond, I have been using Instacart for my off-campus apartment, and it not only saves a lot of time but also allows me to limit my exposure to COVID-19.”

Overall, meal delivery services can make it easier to get food and cook meals without worrying about COVID-19 regulations, protocols or exposure. They can also reduce food waste and allow students to have more time to do other activities with friends or family.

Contact international writer Kaitlin Edwardson at kaitlin.edwardson@richmond.edu.

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