Bags of frozen fruits and vegetables in a freezer

Campus Cupboard is Making Sure Students Can Thrive in Mankato

Becky Menk received a call from a friend in March 2020, asking if she could help out for a few weeks at Campus Cupboard, Crossroads Campus Ministry’s food shelf. The food shelf was averaging 25 students a week prior to COVID. A week later, the pandemic shut down the Minnesota State University - Mankato campus and 88 students came to get food. Becky answered the call to help, and she’s been at the food shelf nearly every day since. 

“It's not what I intended to do in retirement, but it sure is fun! And the kids are just a hoot,” said Becky.  

A woman in a sweatshirt standing outside of a food pantry sign

Becky is the Campus Cupboard coordinator.

Situated next door to Minnesota State University’s campus, Campus Cupboard is geared toward providing food to students attending the college, but will gladly serve anyone who attends their food distributions. The food shelf hasn’t done any formal advertising, with most of their growth coming from word-of-mouth promotion by the students who visit. 

“In 2023, the Campus Cupboard served a total of 784 households, averaged 944 students a month and distributed a total of 161,413 pounds of food,” said Becky. “A long way from 25 students a week in 2020!” 

Bags of onions, yellow peppers, and squash in a food shelf

Campus Cupboard sources free produce from Second Harvest Heartland.

Up until last August, the volunteer-run food shelf was operating out of a 12-foot by 15-foot room where they were only able to let three people shop at a time due to the lack of space. Students would stand in line for hours, waiting for their chance to shop. 

“With class schedules, they're trying to just get in between classes,” said Becky. “We'd have people wait for an hour and a half and then say, ‘I have to leave to get to class.’ I’d feel so bad, but we couldn't do anything else.” 

An open freezer filled with bags of vegetables

More space means more room for items like halal meat.

Now, with their new space in the former sanctuary, they can welcome in many more students at once to pick out the foods they need. In addition, with the extended storage space, they no longer need to limit the amount of food they could source and are now able to provide even more culturally connected food, such as halal meat.  

“It's wonderful,” said Becky of the ability to source halal meat for Muslim students. “The demand is unbelievable.” 

Second Harvest Heartland is proud to partner with food shelves like Campus Cupboard, as they help supply Minnesota students on their academic journeys with nutritious and culturally connected food.