What started as a shelf of snacks and nonperishables quickly expanded into a room full of food that now feeds 220 Concordia students a year. In May 2020, the Office of Student Engagement created the Cobber Food Pantry to provide a welcoming, judge-free, and easy-to-access resource for students who struggle with food insecurity, according to the Food pantry mission statement.
Since its opening, the food pantry has been in the Parke Student Leadership Center. The food pantry is open Monday 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Wednesday 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Director of Student Engagement Nathalie Reinhardt was instrumental in establishing the food pantry on campus. She hopes that students can have their needs for healthy food met.
“I thought it was important that people who don’t have access to food get food,” said Reinhardt.
Reinhardt picked this location because it’s near the faculty offices of those who run the pantry and there was space for its accommodation.
When the pantry opened, it fulfilled a need for the Cobber community—but it was hard to spread awareness about the food pantry initially. Not only did it start small, but the pantry also opened during COVID-19, which made it hard for students to access or learn about the pantry if doing online schooling.
The pantry is now a judge-free resource that fed 220 students in 2021 and 172 in 2020. Sophomore Emily Balboa heard about the pantry from one of her professors and has used it regularly since.
“It’s really easy to get food,” Balboa said. “There’s a lot of food and it varies from fruits and vegetables and pasta. They also have feminine products and soap and tie pods to do use for your laundry.”
The pantry offers various kinds of food such as cereal, all dairy products: milk, cheese, eggs, and yogurt, fresh products, easy to prepare meals such as soup, macaroni and cheese and skillet pouches. There are also cooking spices, canned fruit, pancake mix and syrup, lactose free and gluten free alternatives, protein bars, shelf stable milk and toiletries.
Reinhardt frequently restocks the pantry and is mindful to include food options that are accessible to all students. The pantry tries to keep stock of gluten free, vegan and vegetarian food options. Additionally, the pantry offers ethnic options so that students of various ethnic backgrounds can enjoy food that reflects their culture.
Although Reinhardt may shop for specific items to stock the pantry, it is largely filled by donations. The food pantry is part of the Great Plains Food Bank, which donates 11,171 pounds of food, including food rescue.
In the last two years, 2,323 pounds were donated from campus and community members and food drives in addition to15,000 dollars. In 2020 through 2021, 1,437 pounds of food was donated by food drives and weekly donations from students and staff with 622 pounds of food purchased with money donated to the food pantry.
The pantry accepts food all year round. To donate food, students should place donations in the blue bins that are marked as part of the food pantry, which are in each of the major buildings on campus.
The food pantry gets a lot of its fruits and vegetables with the Concordia Garden at Concordia and sometimes they have donations from other gardens in the Fargo-Moorhead area.
First year Emily Rengo said, “The food pantry is a cool place and I’m glad that there’s a resource for people if they need food.”
The only requirement to use the pantry is to be a Concordia student. Upon coming to the pantry, students only need to bring their student ID. No proof of need is required, and students are allowed to use the pantry even if they have a dining plan. Reinhardt believes that students should not be met with barriers when seeking a basic need and that anyone is welcome to use the pantry.
The first time a student arrives at the food pantry, he or she will complete an intake form, which collects information about race, gender and ethnicity. If a student uses the pantry frequently, they must fill out a survey to know how many people go to the pantry.
To find more information about the food pantry, their website is CobberFoodPanrty.com or instagram @CobberFoodPantry. Contact email@example.com with any questions or concerns.