Aug 28, 2019 | By: Rachel Johnson

Central Lakes College Debuts Upgraded Food Pantry

School is back in session this week at Central Lakes College, and students might notice something new this year. The CLC Food Pantry that used to take up just a few shelves now has its own designated room.

A recent survey conducted at Central Lakes College found that 40 percent of students face food insecurity.

“We found that we have up to 48 percent of students that are declaring they are food insecure, which means in some cases, they’ve gone up to 48 hours in-between meals,” said Erich Heppner, CLC Director of Student Life.

This spurred school officials and student leaders to ask, “What can we do?”

“We kind of came together and we decided that this little shelf isn’t going to do it. A lot of our students are relying on us and we want everyone to be doing well in school,” added Shayla Makowski Budrow, CLC Student Senate President. “As our motto says, ‘eat well, study well.’”

CLC previously had a food pantry, but it took up only a few shelves. Now, with the help of funding from Crow Wing Energized, Second Harvest and other community partners, It has received a makeover.

“The reaction is awesome. Just to see people’s faces light up when they come in and see it. We got some donations, some shelves, refrigerators, and just made it into a mini mart or grocery store,” said CLC student Leon Lyttle.

Any CLC student is welcome to use the food pantry. All they are asked to do is mark a tally on the white board on the wall of the pantry to keep track of use.

“It’s a real, kind of, positive environment. It’s an environment where the stigma of utilizing a food shelf or a food pantry kind of really gets broken down,” Heppner added.

Director of Student Life Erich Heppner knows all too well the impact that a food pantry like this can have.

“I’m a product of CLC. Back in 2006 I came through our Staples campus. I came from poverty. I had to work my way through CLC like so many of our students do,” Heppner explained. “So the food shelf that they had on the Staples campus was small but definitely a life saver.”

Research shows that food insecurity can negatively affect academic performance, physical, and mental health, and organizers hope that the expanded food pantry adds to student success.

“Having this food pantry really does make the difference for how people perform in school and also just perform outside of school,” said Makowski Budrow. “It makes them want to go to class.”

The CLC Food Pantry is accepting food and monetary donations. If anyone is interested, they are asked to drop off donations at the Welcome Desk.

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