Purchasing products such as groceries, toiletries and other necessities can be costly in an area that lacks supermarkets and grocery chains. The scarcity of grocery store franchises in North Philadelphia has Temple students buying overly priced products from corner grocers and retail stores on campus.
Price gouging has led Temple Student Government to initiate a shuttle bus service to transport students to South Philadelphia shopping centers to purchase goods at reasonable prices.
“A lot of the complaints were that students were not being able to do grocery shopping or get food or basic amenities they needed, especially the students that lived on campus in the residence halls,” said senior finance major Farzad Firoz. “I thought it would be a great idea to have bus services take them [to South Philadelphia] so they can get the things they need.”
Firoz, vice president of services for TSG, came up with the idea for this service last year when he was the chair of the University Affairs Committee.
He said he knows about the frustration of not having access to affordable amenities.
Firoz lives across from Progress Plaza, the shopping center that was expected to have a 42,000 square-foot Fresh Grocer built by January 2009.
Without the Fresh Grocer, students are left with few retail franchises and plenty of fast food restaurants. There are two Rite Aid stores and two 7-Elevens near Main Campus.
“Things at 7-Eleven and Rite Aide are very inflated in price, prices that students don’t want to pay,” Firoz said.
Although Pathmark, located at 2900 N. Broad St., is closer than stores in South Philadelphia, Firoz said the store doesn’t have as many offerings.
“There’s a particular shopping center in South Philly that has a Superfresh, Target, and other retail stores where [students] can get all amenities — not just food, not just toiletries — and personal care items, too,” he said. “It’s everything in that particular shopping district, not just because of groceries.”
The shuttle service is slated to begin in two weeks.
“I’m going to try and have it two times a month,” Firoz said. “Have one trip on a Tuesday and another on a Wednesday so that students who have Tuesday night classes will be able to go Wednesdays and visa versa.”
The shuttle service is receiving favorable reactions from students.
Kristin Thumma, a sophomore communications major, gets most of her groceries by mail.
“My mom has to send stuff in the mail because I don’t go home, and there aren’t too many places in a safe enough area to shop,” she said.
Christiana Jackson said she likes the shuttle but wants the area around Temple to have its own shopping centers.
“It’s a pretty good idea, but it also encourages the use of the shuttle bus to go off campus instead of putting a grocery store closer to campus,” the sophomore political science major said.
Firoz said TSG has allotted a certain amount of money to fund the service.
He said he will continue to “work underneath the budget to make all the numbers fit.”
“Getting groceries is pretty hard, and even if you drive your car down to South Philly, it’s hard to find parking,” sophomore Teresa Smith said. “And if you take the subway and get a lot of groceries, it’s a pain in the butt [to carry them back home].”
Joshua Fernandez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.