Shelves lined with non-perishable goods and a fridge stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables can be found inside what used to be an old storage room in the Parke Student Leadership Center. Although it seems like a funny place for food, the closet is home to one of Concordia’s newest efforts to support students – a food pantry. After a study conducted in 2018 found that 32% of Concordia College’s students faced some form of food insecurity, staff at Concordia established the Cobber Food Pantry to help fight against food insecurity on campus.
Amena Chaudhry, assistant director in the Office of Student Engagement, helped organize the start of the Cobber Food Pantry.
“We know from prior years that there is food insecurity on campus,” said Chaudhry. “There’s a population of students who don’t have access to regular food.”
After hearing feedback from students about this problem, Residence Life collected leftover food from students moving out last year. This was an effort to help those who were food insecure. Over the summer, the Office of Student Engagement, the Office of Sustainability and the Health Services Office worked together to offer a food pantry to students with limited availability and resources.
“When the pandemic hit, the reality of student need really became very obvious and urgent,” said Chaudhry.
Chaudhry and others had to become innovative to fill this need for students. They got resourceful and turned an old storage room in the Parke Student Leadership Center into the new Cobber Food Pantry.
Tori Gough, a sophomore studying music education, and her roommate, have used the Cobber Food Pantry three times since it opened on Sep. 7.
“We don’t have a car, so it’s really hard to go and get groceries, especially since we’re in a pandemic, so we don’t want to get on the bus and go down to the nearest grocery store,” said Gough. “This is a really good option for us to not have to face the pandemic out in the public, but also still get food.”
Katie Nystuen, the health services coordinator at Concordia, helped Chaudhry and others get the Cobber Food Pantry up and running. Her job on campus is to help students with anything related to their well-being. Having access to food affects a student’s overall success and well-being, which is where her work with Chaudhry and others comes in.
“We want to take down as many barriers as we can and having a pantry here on campus takes a lot of the barriers that may prevent people from using other community resources,” said Nystuen.
Taking down these barriers is key for students like Gough and the 28 other students who have used the Cobber Food Pantry so far within its first few weeks of being open. Any student at Concordia can use the food pantry by showing their Concordia ID, no questions asked, and students can use it an unlimited amount of times.
“A part of our mission statement is that food is a human right,” said Chaudhry. “We are not vetting for need.”
This accessible option for all Concordia students has made it easier for those students who are facing food insecurity. They have provided them with a safe place to access healthy foods including fruits and vegetables. The Cobber Food Pantry has already made an impact on the Cobber community.
“We have already distributed, I want to say, a little over 480 pounds of food in the first two weeks,” said Chaudhry.
The organizers of the Cobber Food Pantry hope to continue making this positive impact through their partnership with the Great Plains Food Bank, donations and possible food drives with the Student Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
The Cobber Food Pantry is located in the Parke Student Leadership Center. Their hours are Mondays 11 a.m.-1 p.m. and Thursdays 3 p.m.-5 p.m. Students can also contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up another time that works for them, or visit cobberfoodpantry.com for more information and ways to donate.