Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, Northern Michigan University's Food Pantry has remained busy, but had to adjust how food is distributed to students who remained on campus during the pandemic.
In-person food distribution shifted to online ordering. After students submit their order, the order is printed and packed, and the student receives an email informing them when they can go to Gries Hall to pick up their items. Currently, students are only able to pick up items Tuesday and Wednesday evenings between 5-7 p.m. In addition, students are required to bring a reusable bag or backpack to store their items in.
“Last week, we saw over 50 students and we've received over 50 online orders this week, so the need is increasing,” said Assistant Dean of Students and Food Pantry Advisor Haley Rhodes recently. “As the pandemic continues, I anticipate a greater need. Students are still receiving paychecks from their last hours worked. If students are unwell, they may include a note in their order that someone else will pick up their items.”
Within the last month, the NMU Food Pantry received a grant from the Superior Health Foundation and the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation. NMU Ripple Effect received a grant from the Community Foundation of Marquette County and plans to purchase personal care items like dish soap, deodorant, personal hygiene items and laundry detergent for students who use the NMU Food Pantry.
“At this point, we've been able to purchase items at local grocery stores and we've been placing orders with them,” said Rhodes. “Some items that we were able to regularly have in the pantry are not available at this time, but we've been able to make some substitutions to keep it functioning. We have good relationships with local stores and they know that when we're buying a case of toilet paper or 96 cans of tuna, it is not for one household.”
The NMU Food Pantry is still accepting donations during this time. Paper, reusable bags and food items can be dropped off at NMU Public Safety, which will then distribute the items to the Food Pantry. For financial donations, those who wish to donate they must do so through the NMU Foundation.
“When people donate through the Foundation we are able to purchase our most-needed items,” said Rhodes. “We also have the ability to purchase through Feeding America - West Michigan, which allows us the opportunity to buy USDA commodities.”