One of the greatest distractions and deterrents from putting effort into school work is hunger. If someone is hungry, it doesn’t matter if there’s a test in an hour, because their stomach hurts.
This type of scenario caused Claudia Martin-Ayoade, dietitian in Dining Services, and Jason Arnett, manager of food court and coffee bar operations in Dining Services, to design the new MEALShare program.
“We personally knew of students that were struggling to eat, not just on campus, but off campus as well,” Martin-Ayoade said. “We knew that if there was something we could do to help students, at least while they’re here, that would help because I know people who actually dropped out of school because they’re struggling. So, we felt it would be a good way to retain students, but also to help them focus and learn.”
Starting in the Spring 2018 semester, students on the program will receive $7 of credit everyday during the school week which they can use to buy food anywhere on campus. While they will not need to use to the credit all at one time, the dollar amount does not stack if unused.They will simply scan their student ID card to use the credit, a method designed to not attract attention.
“We try to help that way,” Arnett said. “This program will help with a lot of that, so that there’s not any stigma or embarrassment to go along with it. We want to make sure that people keep their dignity and their privacy. Also, to know that there is a way that they can eat.”
An objective of the program is to the teach those on it to make wise choices about how and what they eat.
“We just want people to be able to eat whatever they want to eat,” Arnett said. “Hopefully they’ll make smarter choices in the long run. Healthier food, and learn how to eat on a budget.”
Martin-Ayoade is currently working on ways to teach this lifestyle through the program.
“Part of the program is, I’m setting up modulars online for eating healthy on a budget that they need to review,” Martin-Ayoade said. “It will be a requirement for them to review how to eat on a budget. To learn not just for on campus, but for off campus as well.”
When they were developing the program, Martin-Ayoade and Arnett had to approach multiple departments at the college, including financial aid and the bursar’s office to discuss how the mechanics and requirements of the program.
“Everything around the college is a group effort, and all departments have to work together,” said Megan Casey, Assistant Bursar. “Obviously, Financial Aid is serving students, we’re serving students. It’s always a group effort.”
Casey thinks the program will raise awareness to how much hunger is around us everyday.
“I think it’s a global issue, not all students will say that they need that support,” Casey said. “I think it’s a nice way to get the word out there and see if it will be beneficial.”
The program has enough funding to give benefits to 50 students next semester. Students can apply for the program here.