LeadMN recently gave the school a Hunger Free Campus designation, which recognizes efforts at two-year and technical colleges to address what the organization cites as the rising number of food insecure students.
The food pantry at Anoka Tech started as an outreach of Hope for the Community in November 2019. The Blaine-based non-profit began doing several food distributions per week, but now it’s a three-day-a-week operation. The pantry gives 50 pounds of groceries per each student each week.
“Last week we had 75 guests come through,” said pantry manager NorKhadijah Lindgren, who is a member of the AmeriCorps VISTA program. She is a student at Concordia University who helps run the pantry as part of her service.
“I was honored to know that we are getting the numbers and even it’s rising,” Lindgren said.
The increase in participation helps create a more healthy campus, according to organizers.
“You can’t be successful in school if you are hungry,” said Anoka Tech Student Senate President Deanna Ralph. “No one can concentrate on an empty stomach.”
Ralph and other senators began discussing the idea for an on-campus food pantry in early 2019.
“I would see, first-hand, students that would come into the student lounge that hadn’t eaten all day. They would come in multiple times just to get popcorn and get water,” said Ralph. “When I would ask them, you know, ‘Have you eaten today?’ They couldn’t afford it.”
Student leaders helped convince campus administrators to find a way to make it happen, and that lead to the partnership with Hope for the Community.
“This was really (the students’) idea, and they really said, ‘Will you work with us on this to try to figure this out?'” said Elaine Bleifield, Vice President of Academic & Student Affairs. “Certainly, people are trying to make a better life for themselves, right? Come back, get an education so that they can get out into the workforce and take care of their families–so it’s complicating, balancing tuition with food, rent, car, and all of the different needs. In our mind, this helps ease the burden of everything they have to pay for.”