MSU Food Bank Servin’ up free food and friends since the ‘90s

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Most people have heard of these college-student stereotypes: tired, busy, broke and hungry. If you identify with this — we all probably do — it’s unlikely that you’re eager to spend your hard-earned cash on groceries. That’s why the MSU Food Bank, the first college food bank in the country, is so important to over 6,000 students across campus.

The MSU Food Bank takes place twice a month on Wednesdays from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Olin Health Center. After providing proof of enrollment, students without campus meal plans can pick up various kinds of food, from perishables to produce, based on the level of their household’s need. Students must meet with an interviewer to determine how much food they’ll need. Students then leave with bags full of canned food, fresh produce and MSU Dairy Store cheese.

Abi Smith, a senior majoring in dietetics, is the operations manager at the MSU Food Bank. She oversees the 20 volunteers, paid staff and food during each distribution in order to ensure that the process runs smoothly and that clients receive an appropriate number of products.

Smith encourages other students and MSU community members to volunteer. “We welcome anybody. We have people from local churches — anyone from the area can come and volunteer,” she said. “It’s a super easy volunteering experience. You can hang out with your friends and talk to them, you can listen to music if you want … you don’t have to feel pressured to be here every week … I think it’s good to give back.”

Smith also enjoys the many aspects of her own unique position with the food bank.

“I like being involved in both sides of it,” she said. “Being back here with the food and getting to see the different groups that come in to volunteer … and being out there, meeting with the clients… I feel like what I’m doing matters.”

Nicole Edmonds is the director of the MSU Food Bank. Though the food bank has been around since before she was born, Edmonds manages almost every aspect of the program, from the food purchasing to the website. Edmonds’ favorite part of working with the food bank is the sense of community that it creates for students and staff alike.

“The atmosphere when you come is very welcoming,” Edmonds said. “A lot of people come for the community aspect, as well. I think it helps students, especially international students, feel supported by their university … Even though there’s a 50-person wait, perhaps even more than that, people are laughing together, smiling, they’re meeting new people. We’re seeing people from all different backgrounds, age, with their children sometimes. The camaraderie in the room — that’s probably my favorite part.”

Whether working with the food bank or stopping by to pick up some food, MSU students can leave feeling good about the community they’re a part of.

Visit foodbank.msu.edu for more information about volunteering, joining the staff or using the food bank.