Photo Credit: Justine McGuire

For financial assistance, some MSU students turn to the MSU Student Food Bank (MSUSFB). MSUSFB distributes about 38,000lbs of food to an average of 4,000 clients each year, according to MSUSFB’s website.

MSUSFB was established in 1993 by MSU students, for MSU students.

“The person who should get all the credit for starting the food bank is really a retired Staff member – her name was Bea Mot,” said Dennis Martell, the original student director of MSUSFB and current Health Education Coordinator at Olin Health Center. Mot approached Martell, then president of Council of Graduate Students, and asked for help starting up the food bank.

The sole purpose of the creating the food bank was for students. Biweekly distribution is made possible by student volunteers and a few student employees. MSUSFB hosts over 200 volunteers each year.

MSUSFB volunteers are very important to the organization. The volunteers get things set up before the distributions, including bagging bread and double bagging grocery bags. During the distribution, volunteers fill clients’ orders, keep the back shelves stocked, and manage the self-distribution area. In short, they keep everything going, all under the direction of the MSUSFB staff, of course.

The food distributed consists of canned and non-durable food items, such as peanut butter, rice, and soup, as well as some dairy products donated by the MSU Dairy Store. Clients can also use the self-serve section to get vegetables, fruit and bread in limited amounts.

In recent years, the tough economy has created an increased financial burden on many students and their families. At the same time, tuition costs have been rising, adding to the fiscal load. It’s no wonder that the number of clients at the MSUSFB has increased.

“The number of clients served has remained pretty constant over the last few years,” said MSUSFB director, Nate Smith-Tyge. “We’re right around 250 to 300 people per distribution. This is an increase over the years prior and we equate the increase in demand for our services with the overall economic climate in the state.”

Students Who Utilize the Food Bank

These students preferred not to have their full names printed for privacy reasons.


Heather is an undergraduate student in her third year, majoring in special education. She is living in University Housing with her two-year-old son Kadan.

Heather heard about MSUSFB through another on-campus resource, Student Parents on a Mission, a group that meets once a month to provide resources and aid for student parents.

“[MSUSFB] should have a separate line for children,” she said as Kadan ran around the room, curiously checking out the different kinds of people in attendance.

Heather is currently working at the nursery in the United Methodist Church on campus. She attends the MSUSFB distributions every once in awhile to help make ends meet as she single-handedly raises her son and attends school full-time.


Alla is a graduate student studying environmental engineering and water treatment methods. She is also an international student from Ukraine. She currently works for her department of study as they search for new methods of water treatment and sometimes has trouble getting by.

Alla heard about the MSUSFB through a friend and has since become a regular at the distributions. She said she uses the MSUSFB as a “way to support myself, have less expenses.”

Alla added, “I try to come every other week, [but] work sometimes gets in the way.”


Victoria is a single mother supporting two children, a 10-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl, as she goes back to school to get her law degree. She is currently in her first year in the MSU College of Law.

First year law students are not allowed to work, Victoria said, and for the remaining years they are only allowed to work up to 20 hours per week. She added, “It’s not enough.” Victoria went from having a full-time job to having no income at all when she started school.

Victoria first heard of MSUSFB through a friend who had previously used the services. She was apprehensive at first to use the resource, as she previously was one of the people that donated to charitable organizations like MSUSFB. However, she said, “I had to get over the pride thing, and put my kids first.” She added, “It’s weird to be on the receiving end but I figure this is my time to be in this situation and eventually I will be donating again.

“My primary concern is doing well in school so that I can have a better way to provide for my children in the future,” she said.

MSU Food Bank Impact

The impact of MSUSFB may seem small, but is significant to struggling students. It all adds up in the end and it adds up to a lot over the years; over 608,000lb of food since 1993. This service is a relief to many MSU students who often do not have anywhere else to turn. The MSUSFB plans to continue to serve the MSU community in the years to come and hope to touch the lives of as many students as possible; both volunteers and clients.

For more information on the MSU Student Food Bank, please visit the MSUSFB site.

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