Hamline News

Food Resource Center Celebrated One Year

Created in September 2019, Hamline University’s Food Resource Center has established itself as a needed campus institution and a local leader in the national movement to improve food security among college students. With a permanent home in a room in the back of the Walker Center, the campus food shelf saw 1,759 student visits in its first year. 

The Food Resource Center grew out of research by the Feed Your Brain campus group that showed that Hamline students encounter financial instability when trying to balance paying for food, tuition, and housing.

Hamline’s first AmeriCorps Food Access VISTA, Emma Kiley ‘19, scaled what was a student-led food pop-up into a weekly operation. The Food Resource Center continued to serve Pipers through the COVID-19 lockdown and the summer 2020 civil uprisings.

“We changed from in-person shopping to an online ordering system in March, and we still managed to serve 229 students through the summer,” said Kiley.

At the same time, the center partnered with Hamline’s Women’s Resource Center to provide students access to reproductive and sexual health and hygiene items such as tampons, condoms, and lubrication.

According to Susi Keefe, Food Access Steering Committee member and assistant professor, the last year has set the stage for further growth with healthy student engagement. Yet, the resource could be used by even more Pipers. Students are not required to demonstrate need when picking up supplies.

“Hamline is a United Methodist-related institution of higher learning, and focusing on food access and support of students in a holistic way is a way of living from the values of gratitude and abundance," said Wesley Center Director and Chaplain Nancy Victorin-Vangerud.

“The Food Resource Center is paid for by student activity fees,“ said Keefe. “Students should think of it like the library where you borrow books or access to athletics and recreation.”

Hamline’s equitable approach is considered innovative by local food bank leaders and the Food Access Steering Committee has begun exploring grant funding to increase their ability to serve students. The committee consists of Dean Patti Klein, Assistant Provost for Student Success Caroline Hilk, Assistant Professor Valentine Cadieux, Assistant Director of Social Justice Programs and Strategic Relations/MENA Region Nur Mood, Keefe, Victorin-Vangerud, and the VISTA volunteer.

Committee members Keefe and Cadieux recently won a National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) grant with colleagues at St. Kate’s, Augsburg, and Campus Compact that will allow Hamline to work together with other local higher-ed institutions on issues of food security.

“We will be able to hire student leaders on each campus for a fellowship experience to meet and create collaborations across the campuses and surrounding communities," said Keefe.

Another recent small grant allowed the center to allow staff and faculty to access food and enabled the purchase of a freezer so meats can be added to the fresh produce and shelf-stable staples offered.

A new VISTA volunteer, Sophia Brown, came on board in July. The recent University of St. Thomas graduate will continue to build the project. For example, they are looking forward to expanding food options to include culturally specific foods and spices in addition to increasing the long-term sustainability of the center.

“I love food and aim to continue the work of developing the Food Resource Center and making it sustainable for years to come,” said Brown.

The Food Resource Center also employs six students and three interns, and there are plans to to eventually include a staff member. Looking ahead, the steering committee sees continued growth in student usage and needed space, and hopes to integrate the offerings of the Food Resource Center with other campus services.

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Written by staff.