CMU Helps with Food Insecurity

Shelves stocked with donated food

Story and photos by Dannah Gunn

The entrance to the food pantry underneath Robinson Residential Restaurant

Hunger is a problem that many people struggle with at Central Michigan University – more than you may think. About 1 in 3 CMU students encounter food insecurity during their academic career. This did not go unnoticed when a group of people at CMU initiated the idea of starting a food pantry on campus. All CMU students and faculty have access to this service for free.

Kourtney Koch is the food pantry graduate assistant and senior Zyaire Brownlee is the distribution coordinator. Brownlee is at the food pantry every Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday during its operating hours.

Brownlee explained that the food pantry’s purpose is to help with food insecurity and to support those who can’t afford food regularly.

“Food is expensive! Chicken is, like, twenty dollars at the grocery store. The goal is to give back to the students in need and for them to have something to take home with them,” Brownlee said.

Cereal, peanut butter and and marshmellows are some of the foods they provide

Brownlee visited the food pantry often before she started working for it. She loved going and saw that they were hiring. She immediately applied and was offered the position this past January.  At least 80 to 150 students come each week to use this service.

“I love seeing the same familiar faces each week and having conversations with them. I tell them that there’s lots of food and to grab more boxes. I love it here,” she said.

Milk is available to students and faculty

All sorts of food and drinks are donated by local food banks, donations and even Which Wich, the sandwich shop in Grawn Hall. Some groceries they have include cereal, mac ‘n cheese, pasta noodles, milk, juice, frozen meat, chips and canned goods. Grocery bags are donated by Meijer and many cardboard boxes are also donated for students to carry their food in.

“The atmosphere at the food pantry is very chill and welcoming,” Brownlee said. “There’d always music playing and friendly volunteers. We want to avoid awkwardness. We don’t want it to be weird,” she said.

Brownlee also said that she wants this experience to be comfortable and open to everyone.

On Feb 21, an addition was welcomed to the food pantry: a Care Pantry. This new service has the same concept as the food pantry, but instead of food, it supplies care products such as shampoo, toilet paper, baby wipes, lotion and more.

A shelf of products in the new Care Pantry 

The food pantry is open every Tuesday from 5-7 p.m., Wednesday from 3-5 p.m., and Friday from 12-2 p.m. It is located beneath the Robinson Residential Restaurant.

There is ample free parking, as the parking meters are not in use when visiting.  Anyone can volunteer by signing up on their Engage website or by simply going to the pantry and asking Brownlee.