Minneapolis College works with Minnesota Central Kitchen to curb food insecurity among college students

An alarming number of college students are food insecure.

Minneapolis College grad James Johnson goes grocery shopping and picks up a free meal at least once a week. But not in a store — he shops at the food pantry on campus.

"The food pantry here at Minneapolis College has been a blessing," Johnson said. "It has allowed me to extend the groceries that I already buy. So this is a plus. And plus it’s convenient for me right here at school. So it doesn’t get any better than that."

The food pantry is staffed by students and school employees. The groceries in the pantry are supplied by Second Harvest Heartland. Students also get free prepared meals. The premade meals are prepared by Create Catering, which gets its supplies from Minnesota Central Kitchen.

Johnson is grateful for the meals.

"Those I really didn’t expect that first, but that was a nice surprise," he said. "So those are an added bonus. I’ve come to appreciate those as well."

A 2019 survey of Minneapolis College students found 69% of those who responded were concerned about a roof over their head and where their next meal was going to come from. In the spring of 2020, the Hope Center conducted a national survey of 38,000 students. It revealed 3 in 5 university students experience food insecurity.

"I think higher ed in general always has that stigma of, ‘It’s expensive,’" said Courtney Olsom, Minneapolis College resource and referral specialist. "So not only are they paying their schooling, but they still have to meet all their basic needs.

"You know it’s a hierarchy, right? So they need shelter, they need food, they need water in order to survive. And if you don’t have those basics, how are you going to succeed in other parts of your life, including academics?"

And when you’re hungry, that’s the only problem you care about.

"The goal here is to just help students get their needs met," Olsom said. "We want you to be fed, we want you to be healthy and really just survive. And ultimately for us at Minneapolis College, to reach your academic goals as well."

This is a great example of why 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS is "Feeding Minnesota" this summer. Right now, the Cargill Foundation is matching your gifts to Minnesota Central Kitchen.