December 13, 2023

Meet Johnathan Roberts, AmeriCorps member at Ohio University Chillicothe, and read about how the Student Resource Center engaged the local community, including the mayor, to ensure students had a Thanksgiving meal.

Food security has always been important to me, even before I started my service with AmeriCorps earlier this year. My mother has directed school nutrition programs my entire life and I was inspired by her commitment to provide meals for students during COVID shutdowns. It really impacted my decision to serve with AmeriCorps.

During my service term, my fellow AmeriCorps members and I learned a lot about food insecurity in America and even participated in a few End Hunger Challenges. It still left me with the question – how can I help students on my campus through the Student Resource Center? Thanksgiving was coming up quick and I knew there were families that would be going without a holiday meal. I wanted to make an impact. In the past, we’ve used Bob Evans as a holiday meal provider during similar food drives; they always offered pre-made family meals – turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, fresh baked rolls, and even dessert! I thought I could source community members to buy these meals, then get them out to students and their families! These meals served an entire family of four – or could feed one student over the course of the Thanksgiving break.

First, I started by assessing the need so I could understand what I could do to help. The Student Resource Center worked closely with the campus communications team in getting the word out about signing up for free Thanksgiving meals so that we could have a count of how many we needed.

Then I turned to the community for their support. This was a great opportunity to meet members of the community and form alliances to address the needs of Ohio University Chillicothe students. Finally, I was able to gather over 12 sponsors in my community – including the mayor! They pledged their willingness to support a student, or multiple students, and their families for Thanksgiving, and I’d make sure they got their meal when the day came.

The hardest part of the entire project was coordinating pick-up days and times for the meals! We had a big response from students and sponsors alike. In the three days before Thanksgiving break, I ran to Bob Evans to pick up meals at least twice a day – sometimes three times; I’d pack my car full of student’s meals, and then get them all ready for pick-up in the resource center on campus.
While they came to pick up their meals, many students had the opportunity to browse our Bobcat closet and take warm coats, interview clothing, and school supplies in addition to their Thanksgiving meal.

By Thanksgiving Day, OHIO Chillicothe’s Student Resource Center connected 20 students to Thanksgiving meals and raised awareness on food insecurity on campus and within Ross County. The greatest part of this service was knowing that the Student Resource Center and the community sponsors worked together – and now 20 students in our community would be able to enjoy a family meal for the holiday.

OUC’s holiday food initiative was featured in the Scioto Valley Guardian online in November, check out the “Bobcats and Turkeys for Thanksgiving” article here.

About Johnathan:

Johnathan is entering his Junior year at Ohio University Chillicothe, where he’s majoring in Sociology Pre-Law. His plan is to pursue his Juris Doctorate and practice law or obtain an MBA once he completes undergrad. This is his first year as an AmeriCorps member and he is honored to serve as OU Chillicothe’s Student Resource Center coordinator. His passion for advocating and helping others in need makes this year of service a perfect fit. Never one to turn down an opportunity to learn something new, he has a working background in fitness center management and is also a certified goldsmith in the state of Ohio! He volunteered with the Coast Guard Auxiliary in 2019 and has volunteered extensively with Indian River Arts & Concerts in his hometown of Vero Beach, Florida for six consecutive seasons out of the eight they’ve been in operation; his favorite hands-on charity that he’s supported through his work with the Indian River arts series was Save The Chimps.

Being a native Floridian, Johnathan enjoys all outdoor activities – swimming, fishing, and especially hiking with his border collie, Alo, when the weather is warm. At OHIO, Johnathan recently joined the athletics club and enjoys any opportunity to get involved on campus or in his community. He looks forward to an all-around exciting year ahead. OU – Oh Yeah!

For questions about the Student Resource Center program contact sdodd {at} ohiocampuscompact(.)org">Stephanie Dodd.