Alma College offers two main dining services in order to acquire meals: meal swipes that can be used at Hamilton Commons and Munch Money, a pre-loaded account that can be used to purchase items from local businesses that wish to collaborate with the college.
However, there seem to be both positive and negative feelings toward the Munch Money program. While it can be helpful to students in terms of creating more dining options, it can also be harmful to the Alma businesses that participate.
Ryan Gray (’23), Matthew Przepiora (’24) and Megan Neeley (’25) are the students currently expanding their knowledge on the Munch Money program as it is the subject of their honors thesis. The students recognize that there are ups and downs to the program.
“[Some] pros include student engagement with local businesses, increased business among students at these restaurants and potential increased revenue for these businesses as a result,” said Gray. “[A con is] semi high initial buy in fee for these restaurants as well as a maintenance fee for the restaurant to maintain Munch Money as a way to pay.”
“[It’s] helpful if they get enough business from students who frequently use Munch Money as they will see a good return on investment. [It’s] harmful if they get no business from students who use Munch Money as they will lose a bit of money from upkeep,” said Gray.
“I think having Munch Money is a good start [for businesses],” said Gray. “I think having more events and partnerships from these businesses would go a long way in creating a healthy relationship with them.”
“A pro is having the ability to eat at local Alma restaurants without having to pay out of pocket,” said Przepiora. “This connects Alma College more with the Alma community and provides consistent customers to select businesses.”
Some other cons of the Munch Money program include upcharges and fees when using Munch Money, along with not all businesses being a part of the Munch Money program.
“Although there is an equipment and annual fee, it is not upfront. The gradual collection of the fees allows the businesses to maintain profit,” said Przepiora.
“Alma College directly supports local businesses by purchasing food from them for events regularly,” said Przepiora. “I have attended multiple events with professors, classes, club meetings, and other social events that the school has ordered items from local businesses all around Alma.”
Dr. Benjamin Peterson, a lecturer of political science at Alma College, has worked closely with Gray’s, Przepiosa’s and Neeley’s honors group.
“We want Alma College to be the heart of central Michigan and that means supporting our local, small businesses. The Munch Money program critically supports that mission by sharing funds throughout the community,” said Peterson.
Peterson greatly believes in the strength of the Munch Money program.
“It illustrates that there should not be a divide between Alma College and Alma, Michigan,” said Peterson. “I am deeply proud of the work of my Honors 300 students who are trying to expand the program and make it easier for businesses to participate.”
The conversation surrounding the Munch Money program is ongoing, and many are looking forward to seeing what potential changes will be made.