Students combat food insecurities on campus

Students combat food insecurities on campus

Morghan Lemmenes, Features Editor

The Winona State University Food Equity Projects started a GoFundMe page to raise funds to ensure that no member of the Winona State campus goes hungry and to build connections with the community through one common thing: food.

“I serve on the All University Campaign committee and helped start the Food Equity committee, which got started because I serve on the equity theme for Winona State and I really got involved with it,” Sue Groth, campus card manager, said. “After working on the equity theme, I became really passionate with working with students and their projects they were trying to get started.”

The Food Equity Projects is using the fundraiser to help bring awareness to the three new projects at Winona State: the Warrior Food Cupboard, the Seed Garden and the Seed Bank and Library.

“The Warrior Food Cupboard was like a dream and Denise McDowell and Kendra Weber made it happen. If we did not have the foundation members who donated money and some of the advisors for these student groups and faculty and staff that are passionate about this, we would not have the Warrior Food Cupboard, the Seed Garden and the Seed Bank and Library,” Groth said.

The Warrior Food Cupboard is there for students who need food. Chartwells has donated a cooler to the Warrior Food Cupboard so they can store fresh produce from the Seed Garden and a lot of faculty and stuff, including Groth, have donated money towards the Food Cupboard.

The Seed Garden is overseen by Jackson Ramsland, a junior public health major at Winona State.

“There was originally an idea for a campus community garden and I kind of assumed a leadership position to keep people involved, managing meetings and making this plan,” Ramsland said.

Ramsland started working with members of the Sustainability Committee to create the Green Fee Grant, which means a couple of cents every student pays for credits will go into a fund that supports green initiatives on campus and helps fund the Seed Garden.

The Seed Garden is located behind the Science Laboratory Center at the corner of 8th and Winona streets. The garden grows fresh produce for any student to take, free of charge.

Allison Bettin, a senior ecology major, started the Seed Bank and Library.

“Professor Bruno Borsari was throwing out ideas for capstone projects for ecology students and one of the ideas was a seed bank and the idea stuck in my head,” Bettin said.

Bettin has a culinary degree and wanted to go back to school to help make the world a better place.

After talking to her advisor, she settled on a Seed Bank and Library for her ecology capstone.

“We have one main theme, which is creating connections. We have a central goal to create awareness and inspire action around food insecurity, food biodiversity and food equity. This encompasses three different aspects: education, exchange and preservation,” Bettin said.

The education portion includes workshops Bettin holds where community members can learn how to grow their own food and where their food comes from. In the spring, Bettin will have a modified seed saving workshop where she will talk about container gardening.

The exchange component involves creating a partnership with East End Receration Center in Winona and that is where the central location will be. There will be a small location on campus, in the Warrior Cupboard in the Integrated Wellness Complex, that will include seeds and tools for students to be able to grow their own food.

“I usually start from the stand point of ‘what are you going to do when the zombie apocalypse comes? Are you not really good with a crossbow? Learn how to save food and people will want to save you because you can feed them and not feed the dead,’” Bettin said.

People can go to the East End Recreation Center to ‘check out’ seeds and they will be able to plant them.

Food security has been a conversation on campus for a couple of years now.

“There was a survey done and the results of the survey showed 60 to 70 percent of Winona State students were food insecure and students would skip meals, usually at the end of the month in order to pay bills or buy books. That kind of started this campus-wide discussion on what can we do to address food insecurity on campus and it has been tackled at a bunch of different angles,” Ramsland said.

The Warrior Cupboard is a food shelf for students, where the Seed Garden will provide free fruits and vegetables. All students have to do is come get them, and the Seed Bank and Library provides students the opportunity to grow their own food.

“It’s really a cool system that we have started in the last two years. Students have free avenues just on campus to achieve a more secure food system and I hope that when I leave and when Bettin leaves that other students pick up the mantle after seeing how important of an issue it is on our campus and keep things going,” Ramsland said.

Bettin explained that these projects are not just important to students but to the community as well.

“It has grown into something more than that. I’m wanting to do this because I care. I live in the community and when I graduate I will still be in the community and I think the community still needs this,” Bettin said. “As a student, you are a part of the Winona community, you are not just a Winona State Warrior, so I wanted this project to also include community partners and creating vines into different parts of the community. Making those connections are important in our political climate. We are separated too much and we need to come together.”

Bettin also wants people to come to the table around these topics and see that this is a problem and that our food system is not restorative and retainable.

Bettin believes there is not enough discussion about it.

“There are a vast majority of people who are food insecure and it’s not happening halfway across the world. It is something that is happening here in Winona,” Bettin said.

All the funds from the GoFundMe page will be designated for special projects.

“It is very rewarding to see where we are today with the Warrior Food Cupboard, the Seed Garden and the Seed Bank and Library and we want to continue with it. In the future, we would love to see a larger garden, more exposure to the community and have more community partners,” Groth said.