Refrigeration coming to a pop-up pantry near you

Funding for Feed Your Brain will expand offerings at monthly pantries and move toward a permanent food shelf.

Feed Your Brain members and volunteers at one of their monthly pop-up pantries. Pictured from left to right, sophomore Maggie Bruns, senior Emma Kiley, senior Maddie Guyott, senior An Garagiola and sophomore Najma Omar.

Lydia Hansen, Senior Reporter

The Feed Your Brain (FYB) Campaign is making moves toward creating a permanent food shelf on campus. Their first step: installing a refrigerator.

A resolution passed unanimously by Hamline’s Undergraduate Student Congress on March 26, granted $3,100 of capital improvement funding to FYB to cover the purchase and installation of a refrigeration unit in FYB’s current space by the loading dock in Walker Fieldhouse. A small portion of the funding will also go toward additional storage units.

Getting a refrigerator has been on FYB’s to-do list since the start of the year.

“I think we always knew that we eventually wanted refrigeration,” said FYB co-founder and senior Emma Kiley. “It just took us a while to get there and to get enough people on board to be able to ask for the funding.”

Kiley co-wrote the resolution along with FYB member and sophomore Yasmin Hirsi. Their push for a refrigerator was partly driven by responses to exit surveys FYB conducts at each food pantry asking students what foods they would have liked that were not offered at the pop-ups.

Approximately 25 percent of respondents requested milk and protein products like eggs and meat, items FYB does not provide because they can not store them before or after pop-ups.

“We couldn’t have any refrigerated items because we just didn’t have the capacity to keep those items fresh,” Kiley said.

Installation of the refrigerator would allow FYB to provide those items in the future, as well as open up the possibility for providing access to other leftovers from regular pop-ups. Currently leftover produce is dropped off at the Dean of Students office for students to collect, but FYB hopes to ultimately have food distributed from a single location.

FYB does not have an exact timeline for installing the refrigeration, but it likely will not be used until next fall when management of pop-up pantries is expected to transition out of FYB’s hands. Hamline will host an AmeriCorps VISTA member next year. This full-time position will coordinate efforts to support low-income students around issues of food insecurity on campus, including taking over direct management of pop-ups.

FYB member and sophomore Maggie Bruns said the AmeriCorps VISTA member will help lighten the load for FYB next year. Previously, FYB has been so busy planning for pop-ups that they do not have time to participate in conferences and community events around food insecurity.

“There’s pros and cons, but we’re leaving that responsibility in order to focus on other things,” Bruns said of the transition.

Kiley agreed that although the pop-ups have been a fully student-led project for the last two years, having someone take over that aspect of FYB’s work could be for the best.

“I think it’s exciting that Feed Your Brain as a student org will have a little more space to be involved with the advocacy and education work that still needs to be done,” Kiley said.

FYB members expressed one small concern with installing the refrigerator in their current space in Walker Fieldhouse by the loading dock: will the location work for a permanent food shelf?

“The goal for the for it to not only have food but also be like a place for other resources, whether that be housing or a place for people to apply for SNAP benefits,” Bruns said. “We just don’t know if that space will be able to function in all those different roles.”

Both Kiley and Bruns agreed that although the future of a permanent shelf remains somewhat uncertain, funding for the refrigerator is the first big step toward that goal.