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UMN’s new deal with Shipt signifies improvements for some, issues for others

Students and faculty at the University of Minnesota share their thoughts on the free year-long subscription to the grocery delivery service.
Image by Shalom Berhane
The Fresh Thyme located on University Avenue is one of the grocery locations students can order from through Shipt.

In January, the University of Minnesota sent an email to students, staff and faculty offering a free year-long membership to Shipt, a grocery delivery service.

The Shipt membership includes free delivery for orders more than $35, and the offer is available for the University community to use until Jan. 22, 2024. This deal was announced after Attorney General Keith Ellison filed a lawsuit against Shipt in October 2022 over the company’s labor practices.

Shipt, which is owned by Target, classifies their employees as independent contractors, according to Richard Painter, a professor at the University’s Law School. The lawsuit alleges Shipt purposefully hires workers as independent contractors to get around paying extra costs.

“This is an ongoing issue in labor law, these companies that want to call their employees independent contractors instead of employees,” Painter said.

He said by classifying these workers as independent contractors, they may not have minimum wage protections, benefits or the right to unionization.

As of Friday, there has been no verdict in the lawsuit.

Painter said this “ties to a broader issue” of food insecurity for students. Food access continues to be an issue across Minnesota, with food shelf visits hitting a record high in 2022, according to the Minnesota nonprofit Hunger Solutions.

Bela Tapperson, a second-year student at the University, said she primarily orders her groceries because there is not a well-supplied grocery store near her home.

“I usually order my groceries online from Whole Foods because I live in Dinkytown, and the only place I can walk to without taking the bus is Target, and there’s not very good options there,” Tapperson said.

The Shipt offer is meant to provide the University community with access to the delivery of groceries and other essentials, Calvin Phillips, vice president for student affairs and dean of students, said in an email to the Minnesota Daily.

“Shipt offers grocery delivery for all, including those who do not have convenient grocery shopping choices nearby,” Phillips said.

Tapperson said she has used the Shipt service once since the University sent the offer out.

“It was delivered within an hour, which I was surprised about,” Tapperson said.

In addition to the Shipt offer, the University has resources like Boynton Health’s Nutritious U Food Pantry and Student Nutrition Advocacy Collaborative (SNAC), to help students access affordable food, Phillips said. The University also provides information to students regarding eligibility for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Tapperson said this is the first direct action she has seen from the University to increase food access for students. The Universal Transit Pass, which began in fall 2022, helped students travel to better grocery options but was not as targeted of a solution, according to Tapperson.

“It would be helpful if there were another grocery store closer to campus, but I don’t really see how the University can play a part in that,” Tapperson said.

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