The MealSHARE program at the college is a beneficial, but underfunded, initiative.
When walking around campus, you may have noticed some posters advertising a program called MealSHARE. It was started by Jason Arnett, retail manager, and Claudia Martin-Ayoade, dietitian, in the spring semester of 2018 and became the fastest program ever implemented at the college.
“I’ve known people on campus that drop out of school, even on scholarship, because they couldn’t afford to eat and live in Johnson County,” Ayoade said. “I knew personal stories of people that it was happening to. We [also] had people steal food in the cafeteria, so we knew that there was an issue.”
MealSHARE works by adding seven dollars to your student ID every day so that the students can afford food. The amount is reset daily and is not added up day to day. While in the program, students are kept anonymous.
“Part of our deal is that we want to make sure that everybody keeps their privacy and their dignity,” Arnett said. “So, when we see the applications, we don’t see the names. We have no idea who these students are. The idea is that they can walk through with their student ID, swipe at the register and nobody knows.”
In addition to MealSHARE, the college has made certain food options a lower price. Doing this helps the students on MealSHARE get more for their seven dollars.
“We have introduced a bunch of items that are lower cost,” Arnett said. “We’re doing everything we can to make sure that they can spend their money wisely.”
Even though the program has been a success to help students, it is an underfunded project. This semester, there were over 500 applicants. Only 91 were accepted.
The college currently has no plans to expand the program, so Arnett and Ayoade are relying on other organizations to fund it.
“We currently have some funding from [donations to] the foundation,” Ayoade said. “They fund part of it and Blue Cross Blue Shield is one of our partners that have donated some money as well. We have employees donate some through payroll. We’ve been looking at other possible grants, but for right now those are the current funding sources that we have.”
While Arnett and Ayoade want to continue acquiring funds, their mission is to help as many students as they can.
“Our goal is not necessarily a specific financial goal,” Ayoade said. “The goal long term is to have enough funding coming in where we do not have to turn anybody down that needs the aid. If we have 500 people [that] applied with a legitimate need, [we want] all 500 people to be awarded.”
Students can apply or donate here.
Story by Jake Ditto