DENVER — Metropolitan State University of Denver has opened its reinvented food pantry with a new name and a renewed mission.
Formerly called the Roadrunner Food Pantry, Rowdy’s Corner was redesigned to feed hungry students. The space recently moved from a 100-square-foot office into 1,000 square feet in the Tivoli Student Union on the Auraria Campus.
Rowdy's Corner offers groceries free of charge to MSU Denver students. It’s a place that the school hopes will help erase the stigma of needing help, said Miguel Huerta, MSU Denver’s assistant director of Community Engagement and Programs.
“We’re the Roadrunners, and our mascot is Rowdy the Roadrunner,” Huerta said. “By dropping the name ‘food pantry’ and by letting students choose the name of ‘Rowdy’s Corner,’ we’re offering a new opportunity and starting a conversation about food on campus.”
The student-led space not only offers free groceries but access to wellness products, microwaves and toaster ovens for heating food, a community dining space and a charging station.
Huerta said the new location is a step in the right direction in answering a growing demand and addressing the issue of food insecurity on campus.
“Our most recent data from 2021 suggests about 35% of our students experience food insecurity, so of 16,000 students, that’s a ton, around more than 5,000 or so,” Huerta said. “Denver’s an increasingly expensive city … housing costs, inflation (and) right now, we’re communicating, ‘What student couldn’t use a break in their grocery bill?’”
Angelica Marley is a student employee and said students can pick up items through a point system in the new market-style space.
“It’s free for all MSU Denver students,” Marley said. “They get 30 points a week, and then they re-start every Monday, so when they come in, that we have anywhere between fresh produce, canned goods, refrigerated items and also personal items and school supplies for them as of right now.”
Rowdy’s Corner helps students like Jahnique Stroud, who has shopped for groceries in the old and new locations. She said the new space gives students the total experience of what they need.
“It makes you feel like they care for you,” Stroud said. “You’re not just here paying for an education. All this stuff is included for your nutritional value of your health, wellness, spiritual value because you can’t study and do the things that you want to do if you’re hungry.”
Rowdy's Corner partnered with MSU Denver’s Department of Nutrition on improvements in what the space should offer, including a wider selection of food to meet dietary needs, produce from local farms and healthy to-go meals. The goal is to make food more accessible for hesitant students.
“The Corner is nice because it evokes your neighborhood corner store feeling,” Huerta said. “It’s not saying it’s a store, it’s not a pantry, it’s not a center or resource center.”
MSU Denver hopes the expansion will help raise awareness so students like Stroud can take advantage of what the new corner has to offer.
“It’s been tough, but you know that (MSU Denver) has been here for you, and that’s what matters,” Stroud said. “It’s been kind of hard to find a place where you’re cared about, where you’re valued, where you’re not just looked at as a number but as somebody that … you’re a person.”
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