February 3, 2006

Students dabble in diverse options for grocery shopping

Faced with a limited selection of grocery stores, Hyde Park residents have begun exploring new ways to satisfy their culinary cravings.

“If I’m going to shop locally, I go to the Jewel on Stony Island,” said Adam Apostolovich, a third-year in the College. Apostolovich added that high prices at the neighborhood’s three grocery stores—55th Street Co-Op, the soon-to-close 53th Street Co-Op, and Hyde Park Produce—factored largely into his decision to opt for “bigger and cheaper” stores.

“I visit my grandma on the far South Side, which is right by the border to Indiana,” Apostolovich said. “They have cheaper taxes there and a lot of good sales.”

Most of the students sharing Apostolovich’s sentiments own a car, but the lack of convenient transportation hardly stops the more persistent shopper. Second-year in the College Lindsey Thomson-Levin recently started using Peapod, a home delivery service, for her groceries. “You can get anything you want online, and the produce is much better,” Thomson-Levin said, adding that she liked the Peapod service both for the convenience and the quality. Peapod allows customers to order groceries online, and home-delivers the items the following day. The cost of groceries ordered through Peapod is on par with in-store prices, except for a $10 delivery fee on $50 minimum orders.

A Pierce Hall resident who shopped at the 53rd Street Co-Op last year, she said she was unhappy with what either offered in terms of dining. “Anyone who’s lived in Pierce can tell you that [the dining hall is] basically a glorified taco stand. It’s not really a way to live healthily,” she said. Thomson-Levin described the Co-Op as “pathetic” and that the store was “always out of food. You’ll go with a whole list and come back with just flour and eggs,” she said.

Still, second-year in the College Andrew Kromer said he has not had any problems with the selection of grocery stores in Hyde Park. “I can’t find everything, but there’s a good selection through the Co-Ops,” said Kromer, who often cooks elaborate dinners for friends. “If I’m closer to campus, I’ll go to Hyde Park Produce; their stuff is ridiculously good.” He added that the only ingredients more difficult to track down pertain to special dietary requirements, such as veganism.

With more residents supporting a diverse selection, others have voiced concern over increased competition. Thomson-Levin said gourmet food “is above the price range of most of the people here,” and that it would change the character of the neighborhood.”

Students addressed the issue at the brown bag lunch with Don Randel, University president, and Steve Klass, vice president and dean of students in the College. The University has made past attempts to bring larger chains to the community, but none has been interested, Klass said at the brown bag Monday.

Other students think it is not the University’s place to recruit competition. “It’s not really their responsibility,” Apostolovich said. “They’re doing their part by providing meal plans, even though they’re expensive.”

While no new grocery stores have been slated for development, the commitment to fine dining for some remains stronger than ever. “Even with all the trouble of getting groceries, it’s still better for me than eating in the dorms,” Thomson-Levin said. “The options, the portions, and the healthiness are so much better when you can do it on your own.”