Rajiv and Hima Jain
In the mid 1990’s, Rajiv Jain relocated to the United States from India to pursue a master’s degree at Clemson University in South Carolina. During his time as a student, he sometimes struggled to put food on the table. At times it was because he was short on cash. In other cases, he didn’t have the means to get to a grocery store, or available hours in the day to prepare healthy meals. Rajiv pushed through, eventually graduating and going on to build a successful career in the technology industry. But he never forgot what it felt like to be a college student who didn’t always have the means to nourish his body properly.
Fast forward to today, and Rajiv and his wife Hima are taking a big step to make a difference for students with similar challenges at Howard Community College (HCC). They are providing financial support to build, launch, and sustain the school’s “Feeding Futures Program,” which aims to address food insecurities among the college’s low-income population. The program will provide college students with access to healthy food, available through the on-campus food pantry and garden, and will also offer cooking classes and educational materials.
“We have lived in Howard County for many years and have seen the great things happening on campus with our own eyes,” said Rajiv. “But we know there are students who are struggling to get by, and we want to help solve the problem.”
The Jains were inspired immediately when they heard about HCC’s desire to launch a comprehensive program to curb food insecurities on campus. The big draw, however, was the college’s goal to apply a holistic approach; one that would provide a network of resources capable of helping students beyond today, tomorrow, and next week. The Feeding Futures Program will provide students with information, resources, and skills to help them combat hunger issues throughout their lifetime.
“A big part of this is making sure we are equipping people with the right tools to resolve hunger issues not only while they are in school, but also after they graduate,” said Hima. “HCC has been working to help students with food insecurities in a variety of ways for a long time, but there was no formal program in place previously that pulled all of those pieces together. Now that is happening and we are proud to be part of it.”
The Jains believe the program has the potential to be life-changing for students who face food insecurities, but up until now, simply have not had a place to turn for help.
“I know from my own personal experience how hard it is to focus, or do anything productive, if you are hungry and don’t know where your next meal is going to come from,” said Rajiv. “What we are trying to accomplish here is actually quite simple. We want to see students coming to campus to take their classes, and having the means to then go home and cook a healthy meal for themselves and their families.”