The COVID-19 pandemic made everyday life more challenging for everyone, but there were specific difficulties for seniors and other groups who are immunocompromised or disabled. Nolan Mejia knew that his own grandparents had family members close by who could do their grocery shopping for them, but what about people who didn’t have anyone?
“My grandparents live in Los Angeles, and they have nearby family members getting them the groceries that they need. When the coronavirus pandemic first began, however, I saw that many senior citizens did not have somebody nearby that they can contact to go to the grocery store for them,” he said. “So, I decided that there must be some organization to help these vulnerable senior citizens, and that inspired me to start this service.”
That service is Grocery Grab, run by Mejia and his classmates at Sage Creek High School in Carlsbad. Their free grocery shopping service is for seniors and other at-risk groups who’ve been advised to remain at home and away from others as much as possible in order to prevent becoming infected by the virus.
Mejia, 17, is the founder and president of Grocery Grab, which largely services the Carlsbad area and also has a Carmel Valley branch servicing Rancho Santa Fe, Carmel Valley, Del Mar, Solana Beach, and Encinitas. He lives in Carlsbad Village with his mother and sister, and has also been actively involved in his school’s volleyball and swim teams, founded his school’s Latinos in STEM club to increase Latino representation in those fields, and is in the National Honor Society. He took some time to talk about Grocery Grab, his commitment to helping his community, and finally learning how to surf.
Q: Tell us about Grocery Grab.
A: Grocery Grab was created in March when stores, schools and workplaces began to shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. Since senior citizens are encouraged to stay inside during these times, Grocery Grab does the shopping for them. Our goal is to make sure senior citizens stay safe while still getting the groceries they need. The program is completely free, but sometimes senior citizens feel inclined to “tip.” An important aspect of Grocery Grab is that all of the monetary tips we collect are donated to the San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund. This is administered by the San Diego Foundation, and they are working to help vulnerable community members at this time. To this date, we have received almost $3,000 in donations and are working toward a goal of $5,000. Not to mention, we have delivered over 5,500 items (over $14,000 in groceries) to various seniors in the community.
Q: Where did this kind of desire to help others come from for you? What inspires this kind of community work?
A: I think of my desire to help others comes from being raised in a family and community where supporting others is strongly emphasized. My mom always brings up the abundance theory. She likes to live by the ideology that there