NMU launches food pantry

A wide variety of donated canned and dry goods fill the shelves of the NMU Food Pantry. A wide variety of hygiene products, including shampoo, soap and diapers are also offered by the pantry. (Journal photo by Cecilia Brown)

MARQUETTE — Northern Michigan University hosted the grand opening of its food pantry on Thursday.

The food pantry offers non-perishable food and hygiene products for all students, faculty and staff who are in need of assistance. NMU’s Food Pantry first opened its doors last November in room 101B of Gries Hall and has opened nine times, serving roughly 95 students, food pantry coordinators said.

Getting NMU’s Food Pantry up and running has been a labor of love for many students, faculty, staff and community members over the past year. The Food Insecurity Committee, which oversees the food pantry, was formed as a result of the the Food Insecurity Resolution, an Associated Students of NMU resolution that called for the formation of a committee to investigate food insecurity on NMU’s campus.

“We found 39-40 percent (of NMU students) were in need of some sort of food assistance and I did a little bit of math … the average size of classes on Northern’s campus are 22 students, so that’s eight to nine students per classroom that aren’t having their food needs met, and that’s a concerning number to everybody,” said Connor Loftus, ASNMU vice president, chair of the Food Insecurity Committee and a sponsor of the fall 2016 Food Insecurity Resolution. “This has been an effort by the campus, for the campus and I’m just very humbled to see how quickly everybody came around the issue and put this all together.”

NMU President Fritz Erickson was in attendance at the grand opening to speak and show his support for the food pantry and the Food Insecurity Committee.

“I really want to thank Connor and the Food Insecurity Committee for really putting in all the hard work, all the detail of making something like this. When you think about 40 percent of our students have food issues, it’s pretty hard (for them) to study, it’s pretty hard to succeed and stay focused, and it’s pretty hard to graduate if you have those kinds of difficulties and challenges and it’s really wonderful to see the entire university community come around a student-led idea,” Erickson said. “With that, I just again congratulate everybody for doing exactly the right thing and doing something is really helpful to all of us in the Northern community.”

Both Erickson and Loftus thanked the numerous students, faculty, staff and community members who chipped in to make the food pantry a reality, as did Megan O’Connor, an NMU student who coordinates the day-to-day operations of the food pantry.

“NMU’s community has really been super supportive about helping out, specifically with volunteers,” O’Connor said. “The community, students specifically, have been jumping on this, they are so willing to volunteer, they talk about it all the time, they’re always asking, ‘Can I help you in any way?'”

O’Connor, who led a volunteer training event following the grand opening, became involved with the food pantry because she was in NMU’s Student Leader Fellowship program and looking for an internship.

“I did not know what I wanted to do for my internship, I just knew I wanted to help people,” O’Connor said. “I found out they were looking to start a food pantry and … I don’t know, I had a moment, it really clicked for me and I was like, ‘This is going to be my project.'”

Now that the food pantry is up and running, O’Connor is impressed with the campus and community-wide response and excited they are able to help those in need.

“We have non-traditional students, we have students who have families, to think that we can impact those people specifically, that really makes me happy.”

The food pantry will be open from 4-7 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays as well as 11 a.m.- 2 p.m. Saturdays during the semester, organizers said.

The pantry is completely volunteer-run and has been filled entirely by donations, Loftus said. Those interested in donating may donate hygiene products and/or non-perishable food items at the food pantry in Gries Hall, Student Services in the Hedgcock building, as well as ASNMU’s offices in the University Center.

Cecilia Brown can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. Her email address is cbrown@miningjournal.net.


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