University of Iowa students create mutual aid organization

University of Iowa Mutual Aid was formed to help students in need receive monetary and service aid.


Katie Goodale/The Daily Iowan

Photo Illustration by Katie Goodale

Drew Sullivan, News Reporter

A new mutual aid organization has launched to help University of Iowa students receive communal support.

UI Mutual Aid launched its aid request form on March 24 and has received 97 requests in its first week. Students are able to request monetary donations up to $50, as well as services such as rides and tutoring.

UI Mutual Aid has received roughly $1,000 in donations from members of the Iowa City community so far. Funds are raised through Venmo donations.

UI sophomore Sydney Uhlman, who helped found UI Mutual Aid, said after seeing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and other college mutual aid funds, they felt inclined to start the program.

“So, planning kind of started a couple of months ago, we saw that this program existed in other college campuses, and wanted to bring it to the University of Iowa,” Uhlman said. “University of Iowa students have been greatly affected by the pandemic, you know, as have all college students and really everyone, but we saw a great need on our campus.”

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Uhlman said so far, the two most requested forms of aid have been money for food and rent.

“Our number one request by far has been for groceries. A lot of students are struggling with food insecurity and I believe that we need more resources to address that,” Uhlman said. “Our second most popular request has been for rent assistance. In Iowa City, rent prices are out of control, especially given the circumstances that a lot of students are out of jobs right now. The job market is not great in Iowa City.”

UI junior Anna Van Heukelom said she hopes in the future, UI Mutual Aid can expand and partner with local organizations that have the same goal.

Mutual aid takes care of needs that are not met by the government, through the community, Van Heukelom said.

“It’s essentially a voluntary exchange of money, or other sorts of resources, like time, between community members in order to take care of each other and support each other for needs that cannot be met by the government,” she said.

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Van Heukelom said she is surprised that the university doesn’t have a mutual aid program already, especially during the pandemic.

“It’s an important place for students to be able to support each other and also for the community to be able to support students and vice versa,” Van Heukelom said. “I think it was just like a missing gap that like the university and the Iowa City community didn’t have that definitely needed to be filled.”

Food scarcity is a major issue in the state. Feeding America reports that one in 10 Iowans face hunger problems.

CommUnity, a non-profit crisis service center and food bank for the Iowa City community wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan that the resources the Iowa City community needs the most are food, baby items, and hygiene products.

“High demand items include milk, eggs, meat, onions, and other produce. Nonperishable foods such as canned meats and peanut butter are also in high demand,” CommUnity wrote. “We also have high demand for hygiene and baby items such as diapers, wipes and formula. These items can be expensive, creating a barrier for individuals.”

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