New Financial Counseling Food Pantry Offers Support to Students on Campus

Non-perishable food items and personal care products available

ALMA — There’s now a place on campus for Alma College students to get non-perishable food items, personal care products and seasonal clothing, all for free, on an as-needed basis.

That is thanks to the work of Elon Brissette, coordinator of financial counseling, who launched the Financial Counseling Food Pantry in fall 2020. The food pantry is located in cubicle one at the college’s Center for Student Opportunity (CSO).

“There is a need on campus,” Brissette said. “This gives students another opportunity to get food if they don’t have the means — financial or otherwise — to do so on their own.”

Implementing the Financial Counseling Food Pantry has been a plan of Brissette’s since she joined campus January 2017, when she witnessed food insecurity among students who stayed on campus during seasonal breaks when campus dining options were closed. The COVID-19 pandemic has also intensified different needs for students.

The plans were approved for fall 2020, with funding from the Diversity and Inclusion Office, the Student Affairs sector, and from Meijer, after Brissette submitted a donation request to the organization.

Normally, Brissette said, the pantry is stocked with the kind of high-protein, easy-to-assemble groceries college students find useful while juggling busy schedules. Microwaveable meals like macaroni and cheese and veggie bowls are readily available, along with on-the-go snacks like protein bars, beef jerky and peanut butter and crackers. Items to make larger meals are available, including spaghetti sauce and Hamburger Helper.

The food pantry also keeps a small amount of personal care items, like feminine hygiene products, as well as basic seasonal clothing, like hats and gloves, available to pick up.

There is no cost for any items. Maggie Rosales, a senior student at the college and office assistant with the King-Chavez-Parks Mentoring Program (KCP), said that alleviating a financial burden on students was one of the key reasons the food pantry was needed.

“Hamilton Commons and Joe’s are great, but there are things you need that you can’t necessarily find there,” Rosales said. “It’s nice to be able to have that option without worrying about the cost of things.”

Brissette said, “Some students’ schedules do not always allow them to easily access the on-campus dining options. These grocery gifts are also available for commuter students who are facing food insecurity. Nobody should go hungry.”

The pantry’s place inside a cubicle at the CSO ensures students will be able to close a door behind them and have privacy when choosing what they need.

“While there is no shame in accepting the grocery gifts the Financial Counseling Food Pantry offers, it is nice for the students to know they can have a little privacy while doing so,” Brissette said.

Since the food pantry’s launch, Rosales said, it has grown in size — now the only challenge is in increasing awareness of it on campus. She said she uses her position as a resident assistant (RA) to tell other RAs, who then pass it onto students in their residence halls.

“There was a point when Elon and I came up with the idea to place items and flyers in specific locations on campus that were known to have a high traffic flow of students,” Rosales said. “Creative touches like that, we hope, will help people remember to tell their friends about it.”

Key to the Financial Counseling Food Pantry’s operation is acceptance and integrity. Brissette wants students to feel comfortable utilizing the food pantry if they feel it necessary and not question whether or not they need it more than others.

“I know I can trust Alma College students to respect the purpose of the Financial Counseling Food Pantry, and that everyone will continue to treat this opportunity with honesty and compassion,” she said.

Brissette said she is accepting donations, specifically of personal care products to fulfill a variety of needs, and gift cards to support the food pantry. Anyone interested in donating is asked to email or call (989) 463-7462.

Story published on March 29, 2021