Food for Thought: providing groceries and peace of mind

By Stephanie New-Johnson
Posted February 24, 2016

Food for Thought: providing groceries and peace of mind

During the past year, Food for Thought, Metropolitan State’s food pantry, has addressed food insecurity, hunger and malnutrition in our community. Opened in February 2015, the pantry has served hundreds of students and given out thousands of pounds of food. No one in need is turned away, including faculty, staff and community members.

Food insecurity has been linked to lower test scores, academic failure, high stress and low levels of concentration. To ensure students have the best chance at success, the pantry provides groceries to take home and grab and go food to eat on campus five days a week.

To become involved in the program, sign up at FH201A, Monday–Friday, 9 a.m.–6 p.m. To contribute, faculty, staff and students can donate food, funds or volunteer time. Donations can be made during hours of operation or in the bin outside the door after hours.

The Student Parent Center runs the pantry in partnership with Good in the ‘Hood, a local nonprofit dedicated to changing lives with acts of kindness. They also receive support from the Student Senate, the Minnesota Department of Health, the federal TEFAP program, the Otto Bremer Foundation and members of the Metropolitan State community.

For more information, e-mail or call 651-793-1564.

FFT infographic

Food for Thought in Action: The Garcia Family

Mayra Garcia began her studies in 2012 after transferring to Metropolitan State from Saint Paul College. She is married with two sons, Ivan, age 3, and Alan, age 2. Her mother has recently moved here from Mexico to live with her family. Mayra was born in Mexico City, Mexico and came to the United States when she was in high school with little knowledge of English. She became a U.S. citizen in 2012, the same year she graduated from Saint Paul College with an associate of science in business administration. Mayra enrolled at Metropolitan State in 2013 and plans to graduate with her BA in business administration this December. She was awarded a privately funded scholarship through the Metropolitan State University Foundation. Mayra hopes to find a permanent job in the education or health sector and her goal is to help members of the Latino community.

Mayra and Jose Garcia sitting at a table and smiling while holding their two sons, Ivan and Alan.

Mayra and Jose Garcia with their two sons, Ivan and Alan.

Mayra’s husband, Jose, is planning to start working toward his bachelor’s degree in business after Mayra finishes. He has an associate’s degree in auto mechanics from Hennepin Technical College and had been working as a mechanic until recently due to an injury. He hopes to start Saint Paul College very soon and then transfer to Metropolitan State, following a path similar to Mayra’s. Jose was also born in Mexico City, but he and Mayra did not meet until after they came to the United States. Jose is a permanent U.S. resident and came to Minnesota as a high school student after living in southern California. He believes Minnesota is a great place to live, even if it is pretty cold.

Ivan and Alan were both born in Minnesota and they are learning both English and Spanish. Their parents hope that they will continue to be fluent in both languages so that they will have better job opportunities when they grow up.

Food for Thought has been a blessing for their family. Mayra has been working part time as a student worker while going to school. Jose had been working as a mechanic until his recent injury forced him to stop. Finances are tight for the family and they had to decide whether or not Mayra would be able to stay in school. They decided that finishing her degree was worth the sacrifice and would be the best thing for their family. With the help of Food for Thought, they are managing to get by. The light at the end of the tunnel is commencement, Dec. 13.

Food for Thought in Action: The Thao/Vue Family

Sai Thao and Jim Vue are both Metropolitan State students. They have four children, ranging in age from 5 to 9 years. Jim completed his BA in history last summer and just started on his master of liberal arts. His career goal is to teach, either at the secondary or post-secondary level. Sai is working on her bachelor’s degree in early childhood studies with a minor in family studies and has been awarded several scholarships from the Metropolitan State University Foundation to assist her in completing her studies. She plans to work with families and children as a career.

Jim Vue, Sai Thao and three of their children smiling and standing in the Food for Thought pantry.

Sai Thao and Jim Vue with three of their children.

Both Jim and Sai are back in school after having started college once before when they were younger. As first generation college students, they had trouble fully understanding how to navigate the educational system and had to drop out for a while, during which time they married and started a family. Although they face many challenges now as they balance school and family, they are highly motivated and focused because they want to use the experience and education they have gained to help their community and be good role models for their children. Because two of their children have special needs, they are especially concerned that their children do not slip through the cracks and are able to achieve to their highest capacity. They hope that bringing them to the college campus now and then will instill an expectation of excellence.

Sai and Jim are very appreciative of the university’s focus on nontraditional students. The Student Parent Center and Food for Thought have been important sources of support for their family. Their income is very limited and the food pantry has been helpful in making sure their family has sufficient nutritious food. At the Student Parent Center, they are able to meet other students with families and participate in fun, free activities with their children, which they might not otherwise be able to afford.

Food for Thought in Action: The Sackeyfio Family

Victoria Sackeyfio graduates in May with a bachelor’s degree in human services. Her son, Brendon, is 15 years old and in 10th grade. Victoria came to Metropolitan State as a first generation college student in 2013 after working for several years in the health care field. She always felt that there was more she could do to help people, so while working as a nursing assistant, she began taking courses at Hennepin Technical College and then transferred to Metropolitan State.

Victoria and her son Brendon standing next to each other, smiling at the camera.

Victoria and her son, Brendon. 

Struggling to feel comfortable in a large school and deal with the sacrifices, both financial and personal, attending school meant for her little family, Victoria almost quit after her first year. She was faced with a big decision after discovering that her financial aid was almost depleted. She found out about the Student Parent Center. There she met staff who listened with empathy to her problems and other student parents who were going through similar issues. With this knowledge, she decided she had the support she needed to carry on with her education.

The Food for Thought opening in February 2015 made things financially easier for her because living on a tight budget required her to carefully consider every penny she spent. Having a convenient food pantry on campus reduced her worries in trying to find ways to feed herself and a growing teenage boy. Victoria is now doing her human services internship at Food for Thought, fulfilling her last academic goal. Her son is a great fan of the Student Parent Center and Food for Thought and he loves coming to campus with his mom. He has volunteered on occasion on food delivery days when he is off of school. Brendon is already ‘attending’ college and thinks it’s a terrific place. He will soon be a second-generation college student.