IRONWOOD — Students at Gogebic Community College participated in the first ever food pantry/farmers market on campus, Wednesday.
The idea for the project came on Tuesday morning, according to Cindy Franck, student outreach and retention coordinator at GCC, after students spoke to staff about not having enough food.
“We had a good idea, and we went for it,” Franck said.
Campus counselor Mark Wendt said many students are dealing with the changes of not qualifying for food-assistance Bridge Cards in Michigan as full-time students.
“Even though they qualify financially, they can’t qualify for the cards if they are full-time students,” Wendt said. “It’s hit them hard.”
To help students, Franck and Wendt came up with the idea of offering fresh veggies and non-perishable food items to students at no cost. Faculty and staff donated items from their gardens, as well as from the kitchens to help the effort.
The plan is to continue the event every Wednesday from noon to 1:30 p.m. outside the Lindquist Student Center.
According to Franck, students were “very receptive” to the idea and were even curious about trying new things.
“Not only did they take food, but they asked about what it was and how to prepare it,” Franck said. “They were very interested in trying new things.”
Students received a variety of fresh produce, including onions, kale, zucchini, apples and other food items, as well as a small bag of non-perishable food items.
“What impressed me was students who didn’t need the non-perishable items said to keep them for someone else who would need them,” Franck said. “It went really great.”
For Wendt, healthy eating can help students in a variety of ways, including depression and doing better in school.
“Eating healthy and exercising can help them with school, relationships, their attitudes and their outlook on life,” Wendt said. “It can be very beneficial.”
The goal is to keep getting donations from faculty, staff and even the community to keep the program running.
Despite the success of the program, Franck and Wendt want to see it expand even further.
“We would like to have a full food pantry on campus for students,” Franck said. “We would also like to have a garden on campus to provide students with fresh produce and another plan is to show students different recipes and show them how to cook different foods. It will be a great way to give students good experiences on campus, and find ways to help them volunteer.”
As for the students, food makes them happy.
“What college student doesn’t want food,” freshman Clint Massey, of Paw Paw, said.
“Free food for that matter,” freshman Mike Salewske, of Ashland, Wis., said.
For more information on the food pantry/farmers market, donating items or volunteering, call Franck at 906-932-4231 ext. 237 or Wendt at 906-932-4231 ext. 217.