Connection November 2023

Page 15

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ationwide, students owe approximately $262 million for school meals. These debts are incurred by students who are unable to pay for their meals. Missouri alone has more than 243,000 children listed as “food insecure” and more than $43,905,000 in school meal debt. There has been much debate about schools refusing to serve students who have debts for their meals, or offering secondary, smaller meal portions to students who are unable to pay. One Joplin business caught wind of

Story and photos by Mike Gervais

Bob Wolfe, owner, and Alyse Foley, manager, have set up a donation program at their book store to help support local students who have gotten behind on their school meal payments.

the staggering debt, and decided to help out in their own small way. Always Buying Books, located at 5357 N. Main St. Rd. in Joplin is a book store that has been in operation for nearly 23 years and owner Bob Wolfe and manager Alyse Foley began a new program this year that aims to help local schools from Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri cover student meal debts. “I had been dealing books for 10 to 15 years, and one day I told my wife I’d open a book store, or wish I did,” Bob said. “Alyse has been my manager for 15 years, and she came in with a background in books. I always tell people that

I run the store and she runs the floor.” Always Buying Books’ philosophy is pretty simple, they’re always buying books. “Most people are trying to sell books, but we’re the only ones who are always buying books,” Bob said. But that business strategy leads to a pretty obvious complication. The store simply can’t afford to buy every book that comes through the door, and booksellers will often come in with a stack, sell some of them, then ask if they can donate the remainder. Soon, Bob and Alyse were swimming in a sea of books. | Connection Magazine | 15

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