The Star Tribune today reported on college food shelfs that are playing an important role in retaining students. The article cites Central Lakes College among examples where campus dfood shelves stcoked by donations from employees and others who care can make a difference in students' lives. Reporter Jenna Ross (shown) said in her report: Food shelves are popping up on campuses across the state and country, serving students who struggle to afford lunch along with tuition, fees and books. They're most common at community colleges, which serve a larger share of low-income students. ... The food shelves work in different ways. North Hennepin's is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons, while Normandale opens each weekday at 7:30 a.m. Central Lakes requires no sign-in, while others have students complete a form.Campus food banks are run by volunteers -- oftentimes students doing service learning -- and sustained by food drives and community donations. Some North Hennepin faculty and staff members contribute by bringing in cans, others through payroll deductions.
At Central Lakes College, which stocks a food shelf on its Brainerd and Staples campuses, employees e-mail one another with the week's Cub Foods specials, encouraging them to contribute. Hamburger Helper for 77 cents, Progresso soup for 77 cents and Wish-Bone salad dressing for $1.49. "Ranch went really fast," last week's e-mail said.
"Remember this is a great way to help with retention. Having adequate food keeps you focused!"
More students have been using the food shelf since the recession hit, officials there said, partly because they're offering more and better items but also because rising tuition has strained finances.
Janet Gontarek recently ushered a student to the food shelf on a Monday after he told her he had not eaten since Saturday. "He was really weak, you could tell," said Gontarek, a coordinator at Central Lakes. "He was putting his money into his gas tank before putting food on his table."
(CLC student) Sam Mitchell commutes 45 minutes to campus and spends most of her money "on gas and insurance," she said by phone. The first-year student, who is studying to be a dental assistant, frequents the food shelf because it's convenient, she said. "Anyone can go here," she said. "No one's watching. It's not like you have to be poor."
If it weren't around, she said, she would "find a different way to get food."
"A lot of people are struggling with money when they're going through college," Mitchell said. "The food shelf is nice to have, instead of having to worry about feeding yourself."