On January 5, 2019 student leaders from across the state spent their Saturday mornings brainstorming ideas to address one of the most pressing issues on our campuses – food insecurity. Students participated in an activity titled “Closing the College Meal Gap.” Equipped with local demographic information for their county and school, national data about food insecurity amongst college students, and an array of anti-hunger tactics, campus teams created action plans to reduce food insecurity on their schools. The timeframe for the plans spanned from Spring Semester 2019 – Fall 2019.

Students were presented with over 40 tactic cards that included ideas and suggestions for developing a food pantry, expanding a food pantry, raising awareness about food insecurity, or statewide advocacy around the issue. These tactics were informed by best practices compiled by national anti-hunger relief organizations and college food banks.

Sample tactics included:

  • Create a steering committee on your campus dedicated to development of a food pantry. Be sure to include members from all areas of your institution.
  • Set up class wraps with faculty and go to classrooms to promote the pantry and recruit student volunteers.
  • Incorporate food insecurity awareness and advocacy into new and/or transfer student orientation.
  • Set up a meeting with your representative to discuss food insecurity amongst college students.
  • Research options for how to make your pantry more accessible. For example: Would students benefit from having the pantry open at night? Would a mobile option help?
  • Ask faculty to include information about food pantries and/or SNAP in their syllabi.

After coming up with their action plans students put together strategy posters detailing the steps they would take over the next two semesters to reduce food insecurity on campus. Each team presented their poster and ideas to the larger group. Many campus teams expressed the importance of providing culturally relevant foods in food panties. Teams also underscored the importance of recruiting the next generation of food insecurity leaders. Teams were also reminded to practice self-care and ensure that there is enough capacity and resources to meet the demands that may be brought in with our ideas.

With over thirty campuses present there were a plethora of amazing ideas shared. Some of the great action items that senates will be implementing include:

  • Handing out sandwiches with information about local/campus food pantry.
  • Creating a cookbook to be shared amongst students.
  • Students donating unwanted coupons so that others can benefit from them.
  • Asking each senate member to host a food drive at their place of employment. The food would then be donated to the campus/local food pantry.
  • Partnering with local high schools for food drives.
  • Conducting a cultural inventory on campus so that foods offered by a pantry are culturally relevant.
  • How to combat stigma around food insecurity and visiting a food pantry? Invite fellow students and peers to visit.
  • Meeting with city councils to bring them into the conversation

We are excited to know that students are so engaged in the work to reduce food insecurity on our campuses. We are even more thrilled to know that each campus will now have a plan to do developed my student leaders. LeadMN is thankful for every student who participated in this activity. We cannot emphasize enough the wonderful work you all do and wanted to present you with an opportunity to learn from each other. Are we hungry for change? Starving!

LeadMN would like to thank Democracy Works for the inspiration and template for this game.

Closing the College Meal Gap

Student working on "Closing the College Meal Gap" poster
Student working on "Closing the College Meal Gap" poster
Student presenting their "Closing the College Meal Gap" poster
Student presenting their "Closing the College Meal Gap" poster