Food insecurity an issue despite University assistance

Maria Ly
Staff Writer

Food insecurity affects two-thirds of students at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Since the Sociology in Action class did their study on student food insecurity in 2018, more awareness around the issue has risen.

First of all let’s talk about what some of the things that the school has done.As my time as a student here, I’ve noticed that the University has done a lot with bringing awareness and raising money for resources like the Campus Cupboard and Campus Kitchen.

Through student organizations, offices, and departments within the university, there have been plenty of food drives. Some that brought a significant amount of donations such as the annual chilli off or the food drive against Winona State.

The Student Government has taken the issue with food insecurity and has even created a basic needs committee.

Volunteers and students affiliated with the Campus Cupboard and Campus Kitchen has done more advocacy work as the attendance to the cupboard has doubled. Some of their advocacy efforts included opening it up during Choose-a-palooza for new students to tour and get to know the resource.

There have been more events centered around food insecurity with the biggest event being the Community Engagement’s annual National Homelessness Awareness Week.

Offices like the Women’s Center, LGBT Center, Oasis, and the Multicultural Center has held open kitchens for students to come get a free lunch. Some of these offices give away meal tickets for students who need them.

The Alumni and Foundation Center has featured the Campus Cupboard and has gotten donations from alumni.As you can see, there has been an immense effort, too many to list, that the University has done to bring awareness to this serious issue. However, there’s still a lot we can do.

When doing a research project for my communications class where we explored student food insecurity and the current campus cupboard, we found that a lot of students did not know about these resources. Why is that? Is the promotion of these resources not enough? What are we not doing?

In my opinion, I think there could be greater promotion on social media. Most students spend their time online, and promoting it through pages that have a popular following amongst students would be quite effective. Word of mouth is also a powerful tool, but it needs to be through other students. Tell your friends or your classmates about resources like the Campus Cupboard and we can triple attendance.

Another problem of why students do not know about these resources is the location of them. When you tell a student the Campus Cupboard is located in Crossroads Church, they might have no idea where that could be. When you tell them it’s behind the Performing Arts building, they might think it’s too far or don’t have the time to walk all the way over there.

If we the students can get our school a sports bubble, I definitely think we can get an on-campus cupboard. I understand there are limitations such as money, grants in place, building it, and utilities and appliances, but I believe it’s possible.

I also think that there should be a central place that food insecure students can go to for help. I know that the Community Engagement office is happy to help food insecure students, but do students know that they can get help there?

There can also be additions to the university website, such as a resource tab with information that can greatly help food insecure students such as current resources or how to apply for food benefits such as SNAP.

Another problem that could be easily fixed is the issue of students not having access to kitchen tools such as can openers, baking dishes, mixing bowls, etc. I think it would be a really effective idea to have a rental program for these kitchen tools like the library currently has with technology.

These ideas and solutions are obviously only possible in the long run. For now, we need to keep having these conversations and acknowledge that food insecurity is a problem – something we’ve had a great start in doing.

Overall, I think the school is heading into the right direction in assisting students facing food insecurity but there is always room for improvement.

Header photo courtesy of Campus Kitchen’s Facebook page.

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