Carnegie Mellon University
April 09, 2020

Deliveries to Your Door

First-year physics Ph.D. candidate Alison LaDuke has set up a grocery shopping service to help others stay home during COVID-19

By Emily Payne

Jocelyn Duffy
  • Associate Dean for Communications, MCS

As Alison LaDuke watched the coronavirus pandemic develop and spread over the past few months, she admits to feeling a little lost. She was inspired by the many ways people have stepped up to help in a time of crisis.

“I've heard of people sewing masks for at-risk populations, but I can't sew. I've heard of people who have recovered from COVID-19 donating plasma to help give people immunity, but I haven't been sick,” said LaDuke.

She was looking for a way to help.  

In talking to graduate students in her cohort over Zoom, she realized that many people in Pittsburgh, especially students, rely on buses for transportation to and from grocery stores, something that some students might no longer feel comfortable doing, noted LaDuke. And as social distancing guidelines and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s order have kept people staying home, demand for grocery shopping and delivery services has exploded. Grocery services such as Instacart and grocery stores’ in-house services are struggling to keep up with the demand, causing many to wait up to a week or more to schedule grocery deliveries or venture to the store themselves.

“This is when I realized what I could do to help people stay home,” said LaDuke.

Around this time last year, LaDuke worked as a full-service shopper for Instacart. She sent a flyer to the Physics Department offering to shop and deliver groceries for anyone who needs it for no fee.

“All I ask is that you use this service as an opportunity to improve your social distancing efforts and protect others,” she wrote in the flyer.

“This is when I realized what I could do to help people stay home.”

In a time of uncertainty, it’s important to look for the positive, to look for ways to help ourselves and others. And LaDuke is doing her part to pay it forward.

“Helping others helps me feel a little less lost,” she said. “It's easy to feel disconnected from our community right now, but there are numerous ways to support our community.”

While the service is still new, she hopes that more people take advantage of it and would consider expanding the service to the Mellon College of Science as a whole. The best thing we can do right now, she said, is keep as many people at home as possible to help flatten the curve.

“Many essential workers, including those working at grocery stores, and especially healthcare workers, are putting their lives on the line every day to help. I'm not able to do that, but I can do my part to make their jobs safer,” said LaDuke.