FOOD INSECURITY – Not having enough food or money for your next meal.
By LENNY KOUPAL, CSU Communications Coordinator
As the impact of Covid-19 continues into the Spring Semester, more and more students eating at home are discovering free food options including the recently opened Maverick Food Pantry in Carkowski.
The new Maverick Food Pantry, operated by the University’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, officially opened Monday, Jan. 11, in Carkowski 142. It joins the Campus Cupboard as two services on or adjacent to campus offering free groceries to students.
Megan Heutmaker, Maverick Food Pantry Coordinator
Although not directly affiliated with the University, the Campus Cupboard opened in 2014 as a student-led project that continues to operate in the basement of Crossroads Campus Ministry located next to the performing arts building.
Open to all in the Mankato area, Minnesota State Mankato students have access to the Campus Cupboard with their MAVCard.
Megan Heutmaker, director of American Indian Affairs within the Office of Inclusion and Diversity, coordinates the University’s new Maverick Food Pantry. She said the food pantry open to University students is the result of efforts by Diversity and Inclusion, the Student Government and the Kearney Center for International Student Services.
“We got the green light seven weeks ago and I can’t believe that this is happening,” Heutmaker said on Tuesday. “We have the space and we’re open and we are distributing food. I knew it was going to be a miracle if it happened. There’s still lots of stuff that needs to get settled but we’re doing what we need to do to help students in this moment.”
Vision for the University-sponsored food pantry came following a recent student study into food insecurity among Minnesota State Mankato students. The study was led by Dr. Carol Glasser with the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.
The study showed that 40 percent of Minnesota State Mankato students experienced high or very high food insecurity. Another 24 percent had marginal food insecurity.
“That’s almost two-thirds of our student population in need of food,” Heutmaker said. “Students of color and international students are more likely or significantly more likely to experience food insecurity.”
‘The Maverick Food Pantry is now an example of the action that our campus is taking to help students be successful and that’s really what it comes down to.’MEGAN HEUTMAKER
In the midst of the COVID pandemic, another study in Fall 2020 showed 38 percent of the University’s 1100 international students worried where they would get their next meal.
“This is a really big need on our campus as indicated by a lot of data,” Heutmaker said. “I think has been kind of bubbling under the surface and now more than ever with COVID.”
As a result of that immediate need, Dr. Henry Morris, vice president for Diversity and Inclusion, initiated efforts for creating the new food pantry. The proposal was approved by the University Cabinet and an on-campus site was located near the former Carkowski Commons.
Even before officially opening, the Maverick Food Pantry provided over 100 weekly food boxes to students remaining in Mankato over the winter break. Heutmaker said efforts also created partnerships with such food banks as Second Harvest Heartland.
“Over the winter break we did purchase food from local grocery stores,” Heutmaker said. “We actually just heard back from them this past Friday that we are officially a partner of Second Harvest and so we will be able to order food from them.”
Karen Anderson, Student Activities assistant director of CEO, coordinates the Campus Kitchen project on campus. Through Campus Kitchen student volunteers collect and distribute the food to various organizations including Campus Cupboard.
“We’re thrilled that the Maverick Food Pantry is starting up on campus and we look forward to the opportunity to distribute to them when they are ready,” Anderson said.
Much of the food is collected by Campus Kitchen is through partnerships with the local Chipotle, Olive Garden, Red Lobster and Panera Bread restaurants. Food is also donated through dining services at Minnesota State University, Mankato and Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn.
Food is shared between Campus Kitchen and Echo Food Shelf in Mankato, a local member of the Second Harvest Heartland food bank.
Student volunteers through Campus Kitchen also supply the Little Fridge and Bread Cart programs offering free food on the honor system. Students can get free sack lunches, snacks and small meals from the Little Fridge or loaves of bread and other baked items from the Bread Cart. Both of these Campus Kitchen offerings are available on the first floor of Crossroads.
Anderson said having two food shelves along student traffic areas in and around campus offers greater opportunities.
“Having two pantries probably would be a good idea just because of the volume of students that we’re facing. They have different setups,” Anderson said.
Heutmaker agreed that the new Maverick Food Pantry complements and helps complete student food needs on campus.
“We’re working to offer more options for students,” Heutmaker said. “The Campus Cupboard is open at Cossroads Lutheran every Tuesday and Thursday. Campus Kitchen is obviously more focused on meal delivery for community members and people that can’t go out to grab food. Then, we’re open complementary to the Campus Cupboard on Monday, Wednesday, Friday so that any day of the week a student needs food, they can find it.”
Continuing efforts by the Maverick Food Pantry include fine tuning an electronic form for food requests and expanding its food partnerships. The main focus is another means of helping students.
“The Maverick Food Pantry is now an example of the action that our campus is taking to help students be successful and that’s really what it comes down to,” Heutmaker said.
OTHER PROGRAMS FOR STUDENTS
Along with food pantries, other services open to students include Swipe Out Hunger co-sponsored by University Dining Services and Student Government.
Students facing food insecurities can request up to three meals in the University Dining Center. Within 72 hours, the meal “swipes” should be added to the student’s MAVCard.
EMERGENCY GRANT PROGRAM – Delivers small grants to students encountering unexpected expenses, Minnesota State University, Mankato helps more of these students stay in school and on track for degree completion.
FREE FARMERS MARKET
Each semester the CEO hosts a Free Farmers Market. Past events have been in the Centennial Student Union.