Ben Stark, Staff Writer
Stretched thin between tuition, housing and textbooks, some students at Augsburg find extra help at the Campus Cupboard, Augsburg’s food shelf. Until recently, the organization struggled to find volunteers and adequate donations from students and faculty. Joe Amrhein helped change that, and in the process has helped nearly 30 students a week gain access to healthy meals, nearly 90% of whom are female-identified.
The closed doors were an opportunity for Joe, a recent transfer student from Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC). He brought his schoolwork to the Foss Center and began volunteering on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. At the time, the Cupboard was picked over, and nutritional items were scarce. Campus-wide food drives helped, but students were still limited to five items a day. In response, Joe reached out to MCTC’s food shelf for advice. They connected him with a number of outside organizations.
As part of their mission, nonprofit groups such as Loaves and Fishes and Second Harvest Heartland have helped stock the shelves of the Campus Cupboard. With their help, Joe removed the quantity limitations on food and has helped increase the distribution of more nutritional foods. He said, “It’s really hard to ask for help. I didn’t want people to skip meals because they could not make it to campus for food.”
Skipping meals and learning do not mix. The National Education Association has pointed to research by leading social scientists on the link between poor academic performance and hunger. They find that undernourished students underachieve in math and are more likely to repeat courses. There is an emphasis in public schools to provide nutritional breakfasts within the building; an emphasis on the right food is just as important as the amount of food consumed.
Before, proteins were hard to find. Now, there is an entire shelf filled with black beans and tuna. There is a vegetable section and plenty of hearty soups. Some of the donations even include organic produce. There is also a shoulder-high stack of boxes filled with dry foods.
Amrhein provided a tour of the campus cupboard and stated that, “Some of this is just the leftover junk food. You see here how much sugar this has. This entire bag has over 1,000 empty calories. But some people like the sugary or salty stuff.” After the tour, it was clear: there is plenty of food available for any struggling student. Most of the time, the hardest part is asking.
If you are interested in learning more about the Campus Cupboard, you can email Joe Amrhein at firstname.lastname@example.org or stop by. The Campus Cupboard is located in the Foss Center lobby and is available to all Augsburg students. They are open Tuesday 12–6 p.m., Wednesday 2–5 p.m. and Thursday 12–4 p.m. Donations and volunteers are always appreciated.
This article was originally published in the Dec. 07, 2018 issue.
Joe Amrhein in the Augsburg Campus Cupboard. Photo by Ben Stark.