New bus route launched to Echo Food Shelf

In November, a new city bus route was launched for students to get to the ECHO Food Shelf pantry. 

ECHO sits on Downtown Express Route 7. The bus route, which is free for Minnesota State students, is funded by Mankato Area Transit. Bus route 7 runs Monday-Friday.

The ECHO Food Shelf was established in 1981. ECHO stands for Emergency Community Help Organization. It began as a short-term assistance for people experiencing food insecurity and today is one of the busiest food shelves in the state.

The need for a free bus ride to the food shelf has never been more important than now. Research by MSU faculty and students shows students have a higher than average incidence of food insecurity.

“The reason a student would want to go to any food shelf is just to meet their nutritional needs,” said Associate Professor Carol Glasser. “And research shows that students who are malnourished have a lot of consequences socially and academically, as well as in terms of their mental health and well-being in a lot of different areas.”

Senior Mitchel Pomije and Glasser co-authored a food and transportation insecurity research paper. As it’s written in their work, “Mavericks experience food insecurity at a higher rate than the national collegiate average, with 64% of Minnesota State Mankato students experiencing some form of food insecurity. This study also found that 39% reported their food insecurity negatively affected their academic success.”

Pomije said they were able to look at a variety of factors that might affect food insecurity among students.

“We also saw as a result of the COVID pandemic a lot more individuals in general becoming more food insecure, and college students tend to be more food insecure than the general population,” said Pomije. “So we assumed coming into this survey that the population of our students was going to be about the same as far as how many of them were food insecure.”

Glasser’s research team also found that it can be hard for students to travel to food pantries and grocery stores to address their nutritional and dietetic needs. 

“The students found, when exploring in one of our studies going to Echo Food Shelf, that it could also be quite challenging to use because there’s no easy way to get there,” said Glasser. “And that’s why we’re really excited that there’s now a bus route.”

“Just the process of getting to Walmart alone took us about the same amount of time that it would take me just to hop in my car, get there and do half of my grocery shopping,” said Pomije. “I have to think of, well, I can’t necessarily get frozen things or I can’t get refrigerated things because I’m taking the bus or anything along the lines of, oh, I need to make sure I only take three bags of groceries because I don’t have a way to carry them.”

Glasser said the rate of car ownership for domestic students was reasonable and, therefore, might make the study feel less important. However, Glasser’s research team also believes it is important to consider the international student population. While that was not measured in the original study, Glasser said other research suggests international students experience food insecurity at higher rates.

“And we argue that it systematically disadvantages one population, and this population is particularly disadvantaged because they don’t go home on breaks,” said Glasser. “And in the summer, the bus routes are even further reduced, making it harder to find transportation.”

“We want to make sure that, well, if more than half of our international students don’t have regular access to the vehicle, we make sure that we are accommodating them correctly,” said Pomije.

Glasser said they are happy about the newly launched route and hope more students will be able to get access to necessary nutrition.

Header photo:  Mitchel Pomije presented at the Undergraduate Research Symposium on April 20th, 2023. (Courtesy Mitchel Pomije/The Reporter)

Write to Amalia Sharaf at

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