Chicago-area students, rejoice: home cookin’ is coming your way (or at least it could be) via the new startup homefoodtoday, scheduled to launch on May 3.
Available to students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, homefoodtoday is a delivery service that coordinates with parents or other family members to bring homesick—and hungry—U of I students their favorite foods.
It was founded by three of the school’s alumni: Niraj Patel, Chris Shah, and Bogdan Ciuca. They were inspired to create the service based on their own undergraduate experiences, missing their parents’ cooking and finding their on-campus options lacking. “I am very passionate about this idea,” Patel says. “For one, I lived through the problem, it still is a problem, and with the cost of tuition rising rapidly each year, we offer parents and students another way to deal with stress of food cost.”
So, how does it work? Parents are responsible for packing their foodstuffs appropriately, sending them in spill-proof coolers no bigger than 12"x12"x9," though the company’s website says multiple cooler spots can be purchased at an undisclosed discount.
The food will get picked up on a designated day and time at one of three Illinois locations, including O’Hare International Airport. It will then be delivered to designated dorm pickup spots, where the recipient must show a photo ID to get their package. homefoodtoday will also deliver food from Chicagoland restaurants. Their simple but fun and quirky website offers further instructions and a signup.
The deliveries cost $10 each, with extra charges for ice and coolers if the shippers need them. That seems like a bargain when you consider the seven hours and bare minimum $30 in fuel it would take to drive it yourself. Patel says he knows parents would happily make the trek to see their kids if they could, “but some work on weekends, some are single parents with younger kids back home, and some just don't want to be labeled as ‘helicopter parent,’” Patel says.
Patel says they offered a trial run of the service to one student in preparation for a USA Today College article, to which the mother of that student replied “Thank you so much for making this service. I hope that you guys succeed in this!" She also mentioned Asian families appreciating the services specifically, as their students may have an even more difficult time finding the authentic food they’re accustomed to while at school.
“I told her it is a good service for all parents,” Patel says, mentioning that another co-founder, Bogdan, is of Romanian descent, and his mom would bring his favorite Romanian food to campus. Patel says there are families from many different heritages currently signed up for the service. “Even the Dining Hall director loved our idea,” Patel says.
“Parents love to feed their kids, and when those kids are far away in college, homefoodtoday is providing a platform for that love to continue.”