Grad Student Fights Hunger and Loneliness on Campus

Alice Li
Chin hopes Share Meals will help battle food insecurity and bring the NYU community together.

It’s no secret that food brings us together. After all, Marilyn Monroe tested the waters with Colin Clark by asking him to dinner. Amidst the hustle and bustle of New York City, the universality of shared meals acts as common ground among city dwellers. Steinhardt graduate student Jon Chin, founder of Share Meals, shares this sentiment.

Chin believes that sharing a meal is not only a way to combat food insecurity but is also an anesthetic for loneliness. Chin finds that NYU students are aware of the lack of community in the city and often feel stratified and lonely.

“I think being able to dine with another student, somebody you’ve never met before, and have food in between you, and have this jumping off point to start a conversation and to meet somebody, is a great way to fight isolation and depression,” Chin said.

NYU was the birthplace of his tech-oriented solution to the food insecurity of students across college campuses. Chin, who created Share Meals as a platform to end hunger, was combing through anonymous posts on the NYU Secrets Facebook page when he was disheartened by one student’s post.

“I was following [NYU Secrets] and saw a secret by a student who was talking about how he couldn’t feed himself,” Chin said. “He didn’t have enough money to buy groceries. And I felt really sad, obviously.”

Having glossed over the situation the first time around, Chin realized the severity of hunger among his classmates when these posts continued to surface.

“I said to myself: this is a pattern, this is a crisis, this is a problem. It’s not just one student who’s really unlucky, who can’t feed themselves. It’s an epidemic.”

Students expressed their commiseration with the anonymous posts. Chin was inspired by the generosity of students who responded to the posts, noticing that students were enthusiastic to help.

After seeing multiple posts in a row regarding the same issue of food insecurity, Chin realized the necessity of creating a more accessible way for students with meals to spare to connect with with students who are food insecure. Thus, Share Meals was created.

On the website and app, students are able to donate or receive free food or meal swipes. Once signing up with an .edu email, you can choose between three options: finding free food or swipes from other students, giving food or swipes or posting about local free food events. According to Chin, the majority of swipe donations happens in the last few weeks of the semester, when students realize they have about 100 swipes leftover.

It was the merger of his English Education and Computer Science background and entrepreneurial spirit that brought Share Meals to life. With the determination to combat these matters, Chin has created a medium through which college students — and expanding populations — can tackle food insecurity.

“I think a lot of our social problems would benefit greatly from a [combination] of things,” Chin said. “I want to bring artists and engineers together and come up with these new, awesome ways to solve these problems.”

Email Alice Li at [email protected]

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