UT Students’ Website to Help Shoppers During COVID-19
By Mason Carroll
Cities around the country are under stay-at-home orders, including Austin, because of COVID-19. While people are staying inside for the most part, it has not stopped buyers from hoarding supplies, leaving grocery store shelves empty.
Teri Masters is a San Antonio resident who searched store to store for groceries during quarantine. While she needed supplies, she was also worried about the risk traveling to multiple stores would put on her and her family.
“I’m more susceptible,” Masters said. “I have really bad asthma, so I could get COVID–19. We can’t be spending so much time running around fighting people looking for things.”
Rithwik Pat and Darshan Bhatta, University of Texas computer science students, were also noticing how hard it was to find certain items.
“We realized that our parents were having trouble finding groceries, and then when we saw the news we realized that the problem was a lot more widespread,” Pat said.
So, the two students spend the week of spring break coding a website to help put an end to the need of searching multiple stores for groceries. On March 24 Instok.org was launched.
The website uses the user’s zip codes and then pulls together inventory information from stores’ websites to show the closet store with the item they are looking for.
“Anything to help this situation and give people an idea of where to look for what they’re finding instead of going to 7 or 8 stores,” Pat said. “We can reduce that to one or two stores by giving them places where they can find their products we thought would be really helpful.”
Masters said she used the site to find the supplies she was looking for, including toilet paper. She hasn’t had to go out since.
“[I was] so relieved because I could not stand another day going out and searching and searching and not getting anything,” Masters said.
For Pat and Bhatta, they enjoy seeing how their website helps others during the pandemic.
“It’s been amazing…probably the best part of it has been hearing back from people who have found things or had really trouble finding things,” Pat said. “Hearing the feedback from people who have really benefited from this has been really awesome.”
In Stok might not always be used for grocery shopping during a pandemic, but they plan to keep it up to help in the future with things like holiday shopping.
Pat said it is important to help others out now more than ever.
“I would say make a difference in any way that you can and try to use the skills that you have and try to apply the skills that you have to help people,” Pat said.