U-M students now have access to a regularly staffed and accessible food pantry on campus, thanks to the initiative of their fellow students.
For years student volunteers with the Maize and Blue Cupboard have addressed food insecurity among U-M students by arranging for food donations and distributing them on campus.
Alex Bryan, U-M Sustainable Food Program Manager, explains the evolution:
"Students originally formed a voluntary student organization to provide free groceries to fellow students that couldn't get to a grocery store or get food in other reasonable ways. They distributed food once a month, during the school year, at a combination of locations on campus.
Students, through the U-M Sustainable Food Program, lobbied to support food insecurity work and build a stationary pantry. A working group was formed and was co-chaired by MDining and the Dean of Students, with a strong student presence.
After looking at best practices, available data, and doing some on-campus research, we had enough information to move forward while learning from others. At the core of all of this were students trying to help each other."
Now this formerly homeless food pantry has a new stationary home. The lower level of Betsy Barbour residence hall, near the Michigan Union, will house the Maize and Blue Cupboard (also called the Maize and Blue Kitchen).
Starting Fall 2019, Maize and Blue Cupboard will provide daily distribution of fresh and nutritious food as well as cookware and personal items. The new location includes a kitchen that will also support hands-on nutrition education, counseling and classes. Additionally, students who experience other issues related to basic needs will be able to access help here.
While Student Life will provide both physical space and administrative support, students will continue to be an integral part. Bryan says,
"As Student Life takes ownership of the new Maize and Blue Cupboard, the original student organization will be developing into an org that will continue to address food insecurity. Food insecurity is a remarkably complex problem and needs many different solutions at once. As the students transition into other work, we hope to put them in a position that they will be able to address these wicked problems, much like the first Maize and Blue Cupboard did."
Maize and Blue Kitchen will also work with a variety of local, institutional and academic partners to address issues of food access, insecurity and sustainability on campus.
Jessica Thompson, Maize & Blue Cupboard Program Manager, says,
"Focusing the campus-wide response in a holistic and central location, the Maize and Blue Cupboard sought to pave the way for a new path for the University of Michigan. A path that supports a positive, proactive, student-centered response to issues of basic needs across campus....to make a real and immediate change."
Alex Bryan emphasizes that the students' tradition of service and compassion will be continued:
"Going forward, as a university unit, we are following [the students'] basic tenets of service, including a lot of compassion for those that walk through the door."
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