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Essential Supply: A Hotline and Lifeline for Those Vulnerable to COVID-19

Stanford MBAs create non-profit platform to provide at-risk individuals access to local volunteers delivering fee-free groceries and essentials.

PALO ALTO, CA–A team of students at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business has partnered with volunteer groups across the country to help those most vulnerable to COVID-19—the elderly and immunocompromised.

Through the new service, these groups can safely order and receive groceries and other essentials with no fees or upcharges—relieving the burden of overwhelmed programs like Meals on Wheels and local food banks.

The team launched its website last week and currently serves 48 states with many more organizations joining in the coming weeks. Those in need in Chicago and the Chicagoland area including Cook, Lake and DuPage Counties and the greater Los Angeles area can place orders for delivery through a toll-free hotline by calling 1 (855) 964-3663 between 9 a.m. & 1 p.m PST (11 a.m. – 3 p.m. CST) Monday through Friday.

After a customer places an order through Essential Supply, a low-risk volunteer from a partner delivery platform handles order intake, shopping, communications, and contactless delivery as quickly as possible.

The team is currently running a self-funded pilot program and is seeking donations to fund expansion via GoFundMe as well as remote volunteers for its virtual call center. Volunteers can sign up via the website.

During their pilot, the nonprofit plans to add a simple, secure, contactless payment solution. It will also help partners expand around the country by facilitating connections between interested volunteers and delivery organizations.

According to the CDC, hospitalization rates are more than three times higher for individuals over 50 as compared to those 18-49, and increase further with age. In addition, a Pew Research study demonstrates that more than 34% of U.S. seniors do not use the internet, a large fraction of whom are low-income. Essential Supply enables safe delivery to anyone, but especially those who are less aware of the volunteer delivery resources in their communities and those less familiar app-based delivery platforms.

Essential Supply is a nonprofit founded by a team of five Stanford Graduate School of Business students. Their goal is to combat COVID-19 food insecurity by helping the seniors and immunocompromised neighbors access fee-free delivery organizations in their area. Essential Supply centralizes and standardizes orders, drives increased volunteer count to partners, and helps to streamline safe, contactless payments.