Gator Groceries helps students combat living expenses through free groceries
November 18, 2022
On the bottom floor of the Cesar Chavez Student Center, students quietly line up in front of the makeshift Gator Groceries market. Many of them clutch tote bags, eagerly awaiting their 1 p.m. reservations to pick up their box of groceries. Boxes of fresh produce sit atop tables, along with refrigerators stocked with meat, eggs and milk.
Gator Groceries began in 2016 to provide SF State students with free groceries, but with the limited amount of supplies, there is competition to obtain a grocery reservation.
Students begin their online reservations by selecting either a standard box, which includes meat and dairy, or the veggie box, which only includes vegetables.
Gator Groceries is run by the Associated Students of SF State, and they currently have 10 volunteers working the makeshift market.
“We are always open to volunteers for the program,” Ramos said. “We want to expand the program so we can feed more students over more hours, as well as get more space to do so.”
San Francisco-Marin Food Bank currently provides the groceries for the program and, according to Ramos, drops off a large delivery of food every Tuesday.
“We have our students break down the pallets of groceries delivered to us,” Ramos said. “The items are then brought down to the fridges, organized and prepped to be picked up by students the following day.”
According to Ramos, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gator Groceries was serving approximately 500 students per week. Over the past two years, that number dropped to roughly 300, however it is now increasing.
“There is competition to get a reservation because there is a limited amount of groceries,” said third-year international student, Eri Sato. “I always make sure to be on top of it.”
According to Ramos, those that do not have a reservation to pick up groceries will be turned away.
“We refer these students to come back on Fridays when they have the flexibility to walk in and pick up a box,” Ramos said in an email to Xpress.
According to Ramos, reservations for groceries open on Tuesdays, but it is unclear as to what time they begin.
“There are inconsistencies with the timing of when the reservations will open,” said third-year student Thelonious Purnell. “It [reservations] fills up in about 20 minutes and there have been many times where I’m in class or driving when they open and I miss my chance at reserving a box.”
Students who are able to get reservations say Gator Groceries has allowed them to save money for rent and other living expenses.
“To have that weight lifted off me where I don’t have to worry about paying for food every week is really nice,” said third-year student Katherine Liviakis. “It [Gator Groceries] has been a big help.”
A large number of international students have also begun to utilize the program.
“I’ve told many of my friends about this, and they’ve been able to sign up and get the free groceries,” Sato said. “English is not my first language, and regular grocery shopping can be intimidating, but it’s easy here since you are able to select what you want beforehand.”
In the future, Gator Groceries would like to expand by using the space of iNoodles, which is a temporarily-closed restaurant also located on the bottom floor of the Cesar Chavez Student Center.
“By expanding into that new space, we could provide students with cooking workshops,” Ramos said. “We want to be able to educate students firsthand about how to make the best meals with our groceries.”
Gator Groceries is open Wednesday through Friday on the bottom floor of the Cesar Chavez Student Center. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, it is open from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and on Fridays open from noon to 2 p.m.
“Even if you don’t have a reservation, there is usually spare food you can swing by and pick up on Fridays until we run out of supplies,” Ramos said.