More than 30% of Concordia students have limited access to healthy meals and snacks on a regular basis. Located in the Parke Student Leadership Center, the Cobber Food Pantry aims to reduce that percentage by providing free, nourishing food to meet the needs of Cobbers. The pantry opened its doors in Spring 2020 and served more than 200 students in its first year.

“The primary purpose of the Cobber Food Pantry is to make sure all Cobbers have enough healthy food to eat and they feel supported by the campus community if they are struggling,” said Nathalie Rinehardt, assistant dean of students and the director of Student Engagement. “It isn’t always easy to ask for help, but we believe hunger doesn’t need to be a barrier to being successful in college. Having the pantry right on campus makes it easy for students to access and we don’t ask students to tell why they need food. They just need to show their student ID and we make the process simple.”

Several offices and student organizations are involved in supporting the pantry, from volunteering shift hours to providing produce.

“The Office of Student Engagement oversees the Cobber Food Pantry, but we have many campus partners. Staff in the Career Center, Residence Life, Center for Student Success, and Athletics all help volunteer,” Rinehardt said. “We have a great partnership with our Health Services coordinator who provides follow-up to any student who is interested, given that often food insecurity can be tied to other basic needs. The organic garden on campus donates produce in the summer, and students from nutrition and dietetics courses also help volunteer and with creative projects such as recipe development.”

The Cobber Food Pantry was formed after food insecurity among students was brought to the attention of college staff.

“Hearing stories from individual students who were struggling with affording enough food prompted us to do our homework on other colleges that had established a food pantry,” Rinehardt said. “That was in Fall 2019. Fast forward to Spring 2020 and the pandemic brought more needs our way. We couldn’t wait any longer, so we launched the pantry in May 2020 with a single shelf of food that was donated by students and staff.”

While fighting hunger is the primary mission of the pantry, there is also a push to do away with the social stigma surrounding food insecurity.

“Beyond the direct support to students who use the pantry, I think it is also reducing the stigma of food insecurity and promoting that using resources is a good, healthy habit we want all students to develop,” Rinehardt said.

In the 2020-21 annual report, the Cobber Food Pantry released the demographics of students who utilize the pantry. The information was collected anonymously.

Of the Cobbers who used the pantry, nearly 60% of students were white, 15% international students, and 25% students of color. LGBTQ+ students made up 10% of the overall students served by the pantry.

Thirty-five percent of students who used the pantry were in their fourth year of school, 22 in their third year, 28 in their second, and 15 in their first.

Filling requests became a little easier after the pantry’s partnership with the Great Plains Food Bank. Through monthly food orders from the food bank, the Cobber Food Pantry received more than 7,000 pounds of packaged food.

“The food pantry is such an important community resource,” one student said. “Food insecurity is much more common than people think, especially among college students.”

Financial, toiletry, and food donations are accepted and appreciated. The pantry has an evolving list of priority needs, including protein bars and shakes, dairy products, canned goods, cereal, lactose-free and gluten-free items, period products, and paper bags. Also needed are ethnic foods and snacks, including Maggi noodles, various spices, and microwaveable Indian meal packets.

Food donations are accepted directly at the pantry in the Parke Student Leadership Center, located on the second floor of Knutson Campus Center, or in any of the blue donation bins placed around campus. For perishable food items, please email to arrange a drop-off time to ensure prompt refrigeration.

*Visit the pantry website for current hours

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Published December 2021