For CMN students, help is in the closet

Program provides emergency food, supplies need
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Leader Photo by Lee Pulaski Adam Schulz, a business student at College of Menominee Nation, opens up the Helping Closet inside Shirley Daly Hall to show the amount of food collected so far. The closet is an asset for students who might not have money or time to go off campus for a meal between classes.

Adam Schulz knows he’s never going to be able to pay back the College of Menominee Nation, but that’s not stopping him from giving it the old college try.

Schulz has helped the college to open its Helping Closet, a place where food would be available to students who might not have the time and/or money to leave campus for a bite to eat between classes. It was started with student hunger in mind but has expanded to include school supplies and personal hygiene products.

“A group of students from Inspiring Educators (a CMN student organization) and I got together to figure out how to give back to our (college) community,” said Schulz, who is a business major. “We know that food scarcity is a big issue with college students right now countrywide, and we looked at the statistics and realized we are in one of the poorer counties of the state.

Schulz noted that 31 percent of Menominee County residents deal with food scarcity, which is not having enough of all the needed foods for a balanced diet. However, CMN has students commuting from all over northeast Wisconsin, and many students have to figure out if paying for a college education is going to cut sharply into their food budgets.

“We decided it would be good to reach out to our students and provide them with some food options,” Schulz said. “They might be in class all day and didn’t bring their lunch with them and don’t have the time to run into the city to get a meal. Now there’s something available besides the vending machines.”

There are other issues as well, like emergencies cutting down the money they’d set aside that week for food, or forgetting the money at home, Schulz said. He noted it is easier for him and his peers to concentrate on their studies when their bellies are full.

“I know, with my little kids, if they don’t get fed properly, it’s hard for them to concentrate in school, and I get emails from the teachers,” Schulz said. “Full students concentrate better.”

Many of the items are canned or boxed goods, quick and easy meals for students on the go. Schulz said there is a microwave in the student atrium that students use to heat up food.

Schulz worked with Dr. Lauren Villagomez, who teaches early childhood and elementary education at the college, to get the project off the ground. The project received some initial seed money from the college’s Scott Zager Venture Fund, a memorial that provides grants for student-initiated projects, but most of the supplies in the closet came from student and staff donations.

Right now, the closet is located at Shirley Daly Hall on the Keshena campus, but Schulz is hoping to get another one started for the Green Bay campus. He noted that Green Bay students are benefitting from the Keshena closet, but the supplies are being shuttled between campuses, and a separate closet would be more convenient.

“This isn’t just about feeding students; this is about everybody getting involved,” Schulz said. “This is something that campuses across America are doing right now, and we wanted to be proactive and get ahead of the curve.”

Besides being a community service project, the Helping Closet is helping Schulz to advance his studies and manage a nonprofit program.

Assistance remains anonymous, Schulz said, and the only thing students have to do to get items is provide the last four numbers of their student identification.

“This is just another pro to the College of Menominee Nation experience,” Schulz said. “It’s another asset we can provide to the students, a little peace of mind, and let them know that students care about each other.”