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How NMC Supports College Students with Food Insecurity

Posted by Sara Giboney Monday, Nov. 21, 2022

Food insecurity among college students is a growing concern. 

But the Caring Cupboard, a food pantry at Nebraska Methodist College (NMC), is part of an effort to ensure that students' academic success isn’t impacted by hunger.

Food insecurity, or not having reliable access to food and/or basic needs because of finances, can be an occasional or chronic problem for college students.

“Food insecurity is an issue facing college students across the country,” said Lisa Johnson, director of student support services. “Prior to the pandemic, it was estimated that approximately 38% of college students reported being food insecure in the last 30 days. This is estimated to have increased by as much as 15% since the COVID-19 pandemic.”

How Food Insecurity Impacts College Students

Food insecurity makes it harder for students to succeed in their classes. 

“Food insecurity while in college can have many negative consequences, including lower academic performance, lower rates of degree completion and poorer physical and emotional well-being,” Johnson said. “Females, especially low-income females, minority students and single mothers are most impacted.”

In May 2021, eighty-nine percent of NMC’s undergraduate population identified as female. 

“As a nursing school, we serve primarily female students, and females tend to be at a greater risk of experiencing food insecurity, which means we need to be proactive in offering support services,” Johnson said. “Additionally, we have a strong presence of parents on campus, many of whom are single parents.”

As students get further in their programs, the demands in their courses and requirements for clinical experience hours increase. The time commitment can make it more challenging for students to work enough hours to remain financially stable.

“When students have to go to their clinical, or they have to buy books, purchasing food may become less of a priority. The food pantry helps us ensure that food and basic needs remain available to our students,” she said.

Johnson said inflation and increased cost of living are also causing more students to struggle financially. 

The NMC Food Pantry

The campus food pantry began in 2017 when Johnson and her staff started keeping snacks available after a student passed out because she was rationing her food to make sure her daughter had enough to eat.

Staff soon realized the demand for food went beyond snacks.

The food pantry expanded into a small room located on the second floor of the Clark Center. The pantry now has shelves for non-perishable food, non-refrigerated fresh produce, personal care items and household products, a refrigerator and a freezer. 

The pantry provides perishable and non-perishable food items including, meat, fresh bread, produce, dairy products, canned food, pasta, rice and cereal. The pantry also offers infant and toddler necessities, personal care items, household products, scrubs, school supplies and more. 

In 2021, the food pantry served nearly 1,500 students and their families. This year, it is expected to serve more than 3,000 students and their families. 

As of October 2022, the food pantry has been visited 550 times. About 250 students on campus have visited at least once in 2022. 

The food pantry receives regular donations from community partners. Kounze Commons donates non-perishable items, meat and produce, and Rotella’s Italian Bakery donates bread weekly. Hy-Vee grocery store provides vouchers for students. 

Additionally, the Methodist Hospital Foundation assists with donations. The food pantry recently received $50,000 from multiple donors. 

Donations to the food pantry are critical to supporting students in need.

“This year, our demand is greater than ever. Some weeks, simply keeping certain foods on the shelves is difficult,” Johnson said. 

As the demand grows, Johnson is working on updating and expanding the pantry. 

“We are looking at better ways to use our space by updating our shelving, improving our refrigeration and freezer capabilities and examining storage solutions,” she said. “Another goal is to offer consistent ‘open’ hours for students to stop by and shop since we currently only do pick-up orders or shopping by appointment.”

How to Access the NMC Food Pantry

NMC students can place an order online or schedule a time to pick up items from the food pantry.

Students can schedule shopping appointments by emailing or

In addition to the food pantry, students can access the Methodist Hospital Foundation Student Crisis Fund. The fund offers financial assistance to students who need support during emergencies. Students are eligible for up to $1,000 in assistance once every school year. 

The crisis fund can relieve financial stress by paying for rent or mortgage, utility and phone bills, auto repairs, daycare costs or other unexpected expenses.

Bills or invoices are submitted to a Student Crisis Fund representative, and the Methodist Hospital Foundation makes a payment on the student’s behalf. 

Students enrolled at NMC are eligible for assistance. For more information, contact Julie Raether, the Student Crisis Fund representative, at

How to Support the NMC Food Pantry

NMC students, staff and faculty, and community members can volunteer in the food pantry, unloading boxes of donated food, restocking shelves and packing food orders.

Financial contributions and food donations are also accepted. The NMC Food Pantry has an Amazon wish list featuring items of need.

The food pantry is in greatest need of food items, including:

  • Oatmeal
  • Dry pasta
  • Egg noodles
  • Pasta sauce
  • Canned salmon
  • Instant mashed potatoes
  • Rice
  • Ramen
  • Canned soup
  • Broth
  • Chickpeas
  • Cereal
  • Granola bars
  • Crackers
  • Individually packaged snacks
  • Jelly and jam
  • Seasoning packets
  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Shredded cheese
  • Fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Butter sticks

The food pantry also needs personal care and household items such as:

  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Bar soap
  • Body wash
  • Hand soap
  • Deodorant
  • Razors
  • Tampons and pads
  • Toothpaste
  • Toothbrushes
  • Lotion
  • Chapstick
  • Baby wipes
  • Diapers
  • Laundry soap
  • Toilet paper
  • Paper towels
  • Dish soap and dishwasher soap

Donations can be dropped off at the NMC Clark Center front desk or in Clark Center, room 2211. 

Topics: student life, wellness, preparing for college, mental health

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