Meeting Non-academic Needs Through Partnerships
If you find yourself at Normandale Community College on a Wednesday afternoon, you may just see a line of students waiting to receive food through VEAP’s Mobile Food Pantry. Thanks to College Health Corps VISTA Amy Soeun, Normandale Community College has been able to strengthen a partnership with VEAP, an organization that helps increase individual’s access to food, housing, financial assistance, and other basic needs through support services. In an effort to increase Normandale students’ access to healthy foods, Amy has been able to partner with VEAP to have their mobile food pantry on campus every other Wednesday afternoon. Since this partnership started in September, VEAP has been able to distribute nearly 8000 pounds, worth nearly $15,000, of food on campus. Amy also created feedback surveys to better learn the impact of this resource on campus. The most recently collected data informs us that before using the pantry, 93.1% of survey respondents were sometimes or often worried about their food running out before getting money to buy more. After using the VEAP Mobile Food Pantry, 66.7% stated that they could eat more balanced meals, and 75% indicated that they now often have extra money to spend on others things besides food. As more research is collected on the high rates of food insecurity on college campuses, we know this partnership is effective and necessarily for many students. Normandale Community College was also able to recognize VEAP for their collaborative efforts through Minnesota Campus Compact’s Presidents’ Community Partner Award this year.
Amy has been working to provide students with other resources too. For example, Normandale also collaborates with Oasis for Youth to bring regular tabling to campus, and has so far connected over 200 students to personal care, hygiene, transportation, and rental resources and referrals. Community Action Partnership is able to offer SNAP outreach on campus. Amy also recently organized a “pop-up” clothing closet. Students, staff, and faculty were able to bring any items from their own closets to contribute, and then students were able to “shop” the clothes for free. Women’s, men’s children’s, and baby clothes were available. A total of 164 students made use of the week-long event and 1174 items were distributed. Students even shared personal stories about the meaningful impact the clothing closet had on them.
The ultimate goal is for Normandale to have a regular Student Resource Center. Until the permanent space is ready, Amy has begun to organize “pop-up” centers. Students are able to visit during the pop-up times to learn about and get connected to resources they may need. Amy has developed multiple binders, organized by resource type, for students to utilize. These binders are sustainable tools that will continue to be utilized even when the permanent Center is ready. Additionally, Amy updated Normadale’s website to include information on these resources, and a collective resource map visually sharing resources available in the Twin Cities area. These tools and long lasting partnerships are already making a huge impacts and increasing access to non-academic needs for students at Normandale Community College. We are excited to see the continued advancements made as this VISTA project continues.