CISD mobilizes to combat food insecurity on campus


Food bags can include milk, bread, and other staple food items.

The Center of Intercultural Student Development is on a mission to fight food insecurity, one bag of food and meal swipe at a time. 

Food insecurity, defined as a lack of consistent access to a sufficient quantity of healthy food, is a growing issue on college campuses. Best Colleges estimated that 59 percent of students will face food insecurity at some point throughout their college careers. 

In 2016, CISD staff began to address the issue of food insecurity at Calvin on a smaller scale by providing nutritious, easily available snacks to students in the common areas of the CISD office. Assistant Director of Student Engagement and Thriving Kieychia Likely’s office became a safe haven for students who were missing meals or modifying meal plans to save money, as she kept snacks and staple food items on hand for them to take as needed.

“Everyone on this campus deserves a level playing field — including food equality,” Likely told Chimes in an email. “If our office and this initiative can play a role in the sustaining and thriving of students on this campus then we are going to continue to serve in this way.”

Likely began researching food insecurity issues, resource locations and advocacy with the help of CISD director Jane Bruin after realizing that food insecurity had impacted Calvin harder than imagined. “We soon noticed that the need ran a little deeper and was also more widespread than what we could meet through having snacks in the space,” Bruin told Chimes in an email. 

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, food insecurity surged at Calvin, prompting the CISD to launch its Food Insecurity Initiative in 2020, which features a food pantry open to any student in need of nutritious, easily accessible food products as well as meal swipes donated by students in conjunction with Swipe Out Hunger. 

The Food Insecurity pantry, which is funded through a donation account at Calvin, is aided by an endowment from a donor as well as a monthly donation from a nearby local church. One-time donations by other donors also contribute financially to the pantry’s success. According to Bruin, food is purchased directly by CISD staff with the goal of finding “great deals.” CISD also collaborates with Creative Dining Services, specifically Marketing Manager for Dining Services Marvale Jones, to encourage students to give dining hall meal swipes to students in need, therefore providing them with a limited number of meal swipes to distribute. 

On the week of food pantry pickup, CISD sends an email to students via Student News, Calvin News and the CISD email list with a signup link, offering them the options between four bag choices from the food pantry or a small number of meal swipes for a two-week period. Students who choose the food pantry route pick up their bag of food from the CISD, while Likely has one-on-one meetings with those who need food swipes to see what the need is and how many swipes can be given. Since November of 2020, a little over 600 food bags and a little over 300 have been distributed.

Both Bruin and Likely viewed the Food Insecurity Initiative as a key player in Calvin’s commitment to neighborly love, and they encourage students to become involved by spreading the word about the Food Insecurity Initiative and participating in the Swipe Out Hunger Campaign. Students, faculty, staff and members of the community can always give money or goods to the Food Pantry.

“Nutrition is a powerful tool in educational thriving and can become an issue of privilege. We want to remove any barriers to students thriving here at Calvin,” said Bruin.

Those seeking more information are encouraged to contact Likely at [email protected]. Likely’s office is located in Commons Annex 135.