Meeting a need: Highlighting importance of food and education, Riverland agricultural sciences students help open second food pantry on campus

Published 6:44 am Saturday, February 23, 2019

With the success of the first food pantry on campus, Riverland Community College has opened a second pantry in Austin campus’ West Building last week.

Riverland’s Agricultural and Food Science Technology Club FFA, in partnership with Riverland Student Senate, helped create food pantries on campus to address food insecurities that students face while attending school.

In Spring 2018, the Riverland Ag Club and Riverland Student Senate opened the Austin West Food Pantry to provide food donations to Riverland Community College students who face food insecurity challenges. Photo provided

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“There was a pretty high demand for it,” said Nick Schiltz, ag instructor and Riverland Community College FFA adviser. “We had the east pantry open last year, and this past month, we opened up the Austin west one. Our Ag Club students have done a great job. The food pantry helps speak to the needs of students who have food availability issues with healthier options, meals they can count on, regardless of economic backgrounds. These pantries fit our students needs.”

The first pantry that opened on Riverland’s East campus saw a large number of students utilizing it for necessities such as food items and toiletries. Inside an unassuming closet, students can enter the pantry and take up to three items to make a meal for that night. If more is needed the next day, then the student can return to take another three items.

The Riverland Student Senate opened the first food pantry on campus and worked with the school’s Agricultural and Food Science Technology Club FFA to start the second. Herald file photo

Operating hours for the pantry run from Monday through Friday and is free to Riverland students with a student ID. Although it’s hard to know for sure how many students were helped by the first pantry, it was estimated there were between 20 to 30 students visiting the pantry each day. With the numbers of people in need of help, between November and May of last year, there were at least 500 visitors to the food pantry, according to a previous story.

By working in conjunction with Riverland Student Senate, the college’s Agricultural and Food Science Technology Club FFA helps highlight the role that food plays in success for students. Food insecurity means some students have to choose between an education, or making sure they have enough to eat.

“We encourage our students to be involved with the food pantry,” Schiltz said. “To show their leadership, commitment and resilience to supplement their agricultural education. They’re learning about the issues through courses, but also have an opportunity to take on these issues head-on right on campus while going to school and supporting their fellow students.”

RCC FFA in action

Photos provided courtesy Nick Schiltz

Education and student life go hand and hand. Our Agricultural Riverland Community College students learned about the role in that which digital agriculture plays inside of precision agriculture from Bayer and Climate Fieldview Business Manager Katie Brenny.

There is a wealth of education just waiting in a corn field. Ag Club students incorporate classroom instruction with the Mower County Soil Water Conservation District’s Cover Crops 101 tour in Fall 2018.

Conserving our natural resources provides dividends for Austin, Mower County, and southeast Minnesota. Riverland Ag Club students took part in the ‘Adopt-A-Waterway’ cleanup project inside of Austin in Fall 2018.

Ag Club members are asked to conduct, organize, and lead monthly meetings amongst their peers. They must devise an agenda, operate proper parliamentary procedures, and seek ways to incorporate their in-class education with out-of-classroom experiences.