College is a stressful time. The course load is challenging. You’re immersed in a new environment, with new people, and you’re working fewer hours to accommodate your school schedule, if working at all. Your finances are thinning, and the pressure is on. Worrying about food or how you’ll get your next meal should not add to this stress, yet 30 percent of all college students experience food insecurity at some point during their college career.
That number is even higher for students at two-year colleges, such as Dakota County Technical College (DCTC), coming in at 38 percent. That’s why The Open Door started a partnership with DCTC in 2013: to help eliminate hunger on campus and provide fresh, healthy food options.
When the partnership began, The Open Door’s Mobile Pantry program brought a bus filled with food and snacks to campus once a month. Students made appointments and they’d go onto the bus, selecting any food items they’d like.
However, attendance was low. Students weren’t always able to make their appointments due to hectic college schedules, or they weren’t able to make appointments at all, since the bus was only there at certain hours on specific days.
In 2018, due to these low attendance numbers, The Open Door’s Mobile team made an adjustment – no appointments would be needed and no more bus “shopping”, rather food and snack options were laid out on tables for students to choose from. These two minor adjustments increased attendance dramatically. 30-40 students on average were showing up to get food assistance compared to less than 10 with the previous method.
“Money has been tight for me since I am going to school full time. It helps me feed my son and daughter,” said a student, and parent, who stopped in at the pantry.
An on-site snack corner was implemented in 2019, consisting mostly of non-perishable options, before a full-fledged, student-led food pantry, open Monday through Friday, came to fruition in the Spring of 2020.
The DCTC students who run the food pantry come to The Open Door and pick up supplies when needed. If the pantry needs specific items that The Open Door doesn’t have, or can’t provide, they are purchased via the financial donations made directly to the campus food shelf.
“Sometimes I come to school without breakfast, and it’s hard to focus in class, but knowing we have free food on campus is an amazing feeling,” said a student who utilizes the DCTC food pantry.
In 2021 the DCTC food pantry handed out 18,130 pounds of food at 2,537 visits. In total, 264 new households visited this campus pantry for the first time. The Open Door operates similar programs at Inver Hills Community College, through The Alliance Education Center and at Homework Help.
Interested in supporting the DCTC food pantry? Drop food donations off at the pantry, located in room 2-303, or make a financial contribution through the DCTC foundation at dctc.edu/support-services/food-support/.