A UC Student–Led Initiative Delivers Groceries to High-Risk Community Members During COVID-19

The program’s 170 volunteers help older, immunocompromised, and other high-risk community members stock up on groceries without leaving home.

A group of University of Cincinnati students are delivering groceries to older, immunocompromised, and other high-risk community members so they don’t have to expose themselves to germs in public spaces during Ohio’s shelter-in-place order.

Third-year UC medical student Cassandra Schoborg delivering groceries. Note: These photos were taken prior to the CDC’s recommendation to wear masks; all volunteers now do so.

Photograph courtesy of Cassandra Schoborg

UC medical student Cassandra Schoborg learned of a group in Louisville leading a similar initiative, which prompted her to text her classmate Tommy Daley to see if they could bring the idea to Cincinnati. “He responded within 30 seconds with, Oh we can totally pull this off,” Schoborg recalls. They call it Cincinnati + NKY COVID-19 Match. What started as a two-person team has since grown to include more than 170 volunteers, many of which also study at UC’s College of Medicine.

Third-year UC medical students Shawn Krishnan and Parker Howard delivering groceries.

Photograph courtesy of Cassandra Schoborg

The medical students like Schoborg and Daley are well equipped to lead such an initiative because of their predisposition to help those with health needs. Plus, they were recently removed from their clinical rotations and all curriculum was moved online due to COVID-19. “I think everyone was a little antsy to do something,” Schoborg says. “This gives us an opportunity to take some of that extra energy and do something positive with it.”

The community responded in a big way, with people signing up for the service for themselves and on behalf of family members or neighbors who needed support. So far, Cincinnati + NKY COVID-19 Match has supported more than 50 homes, with new community members reaching every day of the week. “Initially, we did a lot of reaching out to the community and we connected with a lot of nonprofit organizations and local churches,” Schoborg says. “Word quickly started to spread and we didn’t have to reach out to the community as much.”

The volunteers handle the shopping, deliver the groceries to the person’s home, and receive payment, all while maintaining proper social distancing precautions. “We’ve been emphasizing good hand hygiene and making sure that everyone takes hand sanitizer with them and uses it before and after they handle the groceries,” Schoborg says.

Third-year UC medical student Tommy Daley delivering groceries.

Photograph courtesy of Cassandra Schoborg

Even without any physical contact, Schoborg says volunteers are able to meaningfully interact with members of the community they typically wouldn’t meet. They’ve also found that the people they serve are oftentimes volunteers themselves, who would be working at local soup kitchens or other nonprofits if weren’t for COVID-19. Schoborg says this initiative allows the students to reverse roles and return the favor. “It’s been nice to be able to give back,” she says. This is an awesome opportunity for us to get to do that.”

If you or someone you know needs help getting groceries, or if you’d like to learn how you can help, visit Cincinnati + NKY COVID-19 Match’s website or call (513) 327-8583.

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