Nutritious U food pantry finds a permanent home in Coffman

The pantry offers each student several options of fruits, vegetables, protein and grains.

Luc Mainguy

Students patiently lined up on the second floor of Coffman Memorial Union Tuesday morning, waiting for their turn to pick out foods from the University of Minnesota’s new permanent food shelf.

The Nutritious U food pantry, which held two pilot pantries last year, offers each student several options of fruits, vegetables, protein and grains. Each visit will give students approximately six pounds of food, and they can visit once a month.

For this month, the pantry will be open in Coffman 210 from Oct. 17 to Oct. 19.

Rebecca Leighton, head of Nutritious U, said the pantry’s increased resources and permanent location allows them to cater to students’ schedules.

“We’re doing it once per month until we figure out our demand and supply, and ideally, we would like to be open more consistently with a couple days a week,” Leighton said. 

The pantry is also now under the umbrella of the Office for Student Affairs and is staffed through Boynton Health. 

Dave Golden, Boynton director of public health, said Nutritious U is a way to address an overlooked part of student well-being. 

“[Nutritious U] created something by giving out, on that second pantry, 6,000 pounds of food in three days. It creates, literally, an obligation,” Golden said.

In addition to providing an emergency food source, the program is also finding other ways to address food insecurity on campus, like helping students register for SNAP benefits — formerly known as food stamps.

Boynton’s 2015 College Student Health Survey found roughly 17 percent of students at the University of Minnesota indicated some level of food insecurity.

Trica Leland, an employee of the food bank that provides much of the pantry’s food, guided Leighton as the program developed.

“A lot of conversations were spent about what that experience would be like for the students,” Leland said.

The permanent room, donated by Coffman, gives students a “dignified environment” and makes the location as accessible as possible, Leighton said.

Leighton hopes to be able to serve 600 students over the course of three days and plans to serve more as the year progresses.