During finals week at Ohio State, Coffee Underground, a coffee shop located in the Indianola Church of Christ, will be offering free food and a space for studying for students during finals week.
This event happens every fall and spring semester, and it is “a way to help provide some home cooked meals to students who would probably be resorting to pizza or ramen,” said Ryan Kindell, a volunteer at Coffee Underground.
During this time, Coffee Underground will be offering free services such as coffee, Wifi and printing.
Kindell said that even though the finals dinner is hosted by a church, it is a service provided to the community that’s intended to create a welcoming and open space that doesn’t seek to entice or pressure people to joining its congregation.
“The only buy-in we’re asking from students is [to] come get free food,” Kindell said.
Kindell works for Coalition for Christian Outreach, a college organization that works in several states throughout the country to partner with churches near college campuses seeking to do college ministry. He eventually became a member of Indianola Church during finals dinners, working with both the church and CCO for the past three years, as well as volunteering with Coffee Underground.
“We love college students and we love the people that live in this neighborhood and we want to offer a chance for them to experience that love through food,” Kindell said. “It’s much more about getting people through the doors, helping people realize that Coffee Underground and Indianola Church are safe spaces—people can come as they are and who they are.”
Erin Barron is the manager and director of Coffee Underground, having been a member of the Church since 2012, and has been employed by Indianola Church to oversee the coffee shop’s operations for the past three years.
Years ago, Barron noted that she never planned on working either for a church or in the coffee industry. During her college years, one of her goals was learning how to make friends, so she decided to teach herself to be more outgoing and also to practicing baking both as a hobby and as a way to manage anxiety.
“When I became known as the girl that always has cupcakes, cookies, or other baked goods, and it was time to open a coffee shop, Libby [the designer of the coffee shop] decided to hand the reins over to me,” Barron said.
Barron said how the finals dinners predated the starting of Coffee Underground, but it became obvious how the coffee shop and the annual dinners benefited one another.
“Finals dinners became really popular after Coffee Underground opened” Barron said.
“After the word got out—that we legitimately just want to give you some love—we actually broke a record: we served over a thousand meals last semester in over three nights.”
James Proulx, a fourth year in computer science, is a regular at the shop, and has been attending finals dinners for a while.
“I think they’re an awesome resource for students and brings a good sense of community in the area,” Proulx said. “It’s great to be able to come in and have a stress-free dinner because for college students, just getting food can be stressful. I would sit here and study for hours — it’s a great resource for the area.”
This will be the eighth annual finals dinner held for the community at the church, located on the corner of Indianola Avenue and East Norwich Avenue. Coffee Underground will be hosting these free meals Thursday, Sunday and Monday. The free meals will be from 5 to 6:30 p.m. and Coffee Underground will be extending its hours from 4 p.m. to midnight.