UND Combating Food Insecurity On Campus

UND Assistant Director of Student Involvement & Parent Programs Kristi Orkerlund (left) and Director of Dining Services Orlynn Rosassen show off goods donated to the new Food for Thought Pantry on the third floor of the Memorial Union. Rosaasen holds dining services card that students can now use to donate “bonus meals” or cash to other students in need. Okerlund and Rosaasen are part of a team that’s addressing food insecurity among UND students head on. Photo by Jackie Lorentz photo/UND Today.

The signs are there if you know what to look for.

Cara Halgren, a former UND dean of students and current vice president for student affairs and diversity, knows them well. She’s become adept at spotting students who are navigating the system in search of a next meal. On fixed budgets, sometimes students’ board plans aren’t enough or they don’t have a plan at all.

The headlines are everywhere these days: food insecurity is alive and well on college campuses across the nation. UND isn’t immune.

“Students tell us about it and we see it,” Halgren said. “Your heart breaks when you hear about the decisions that they are forced to make.”

Cassie Gerhardt, associate dean of students at UND, says she knows there are students who map out their meals based on the number of free food opportunities that might be offered on campus on a particular week.

So what’s UND doing about it?

Recently, the University opened up the “Food for Thought Food Pantry” for students, located in Room 314C on the third floor of the Memorial Union. In addition, the University has implemented a “Swipe it Forward” program that allows students to donate some of their “bonus meals” from their University board plans, or cash, to other students in need. A team of UND staff members, including Gerhardt, who also serves as director of student involvement & parent programs; Kristi Okerlund, assistant director of student involvement & parent programs; and Orlynn Rosaasen, director of dining services, is taking the issue of food insecurity at UND head on.

The pantry currently is open two hours each day, Monday through Friday. The times vary depending on the day, allowing for adequate staffing. It’s stocked with a variety of nonperishable food items and personal-care products that are free for student patrons, though some high-demand items might carry a limit as to the numbers students can take each visit.

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