Too meager to meet the need?

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When I first learned that the Student Parent Center (SPC) and Food for Thought were being relocated from Founders Hall to St. John’s Hall, I assumed the move was prompted by the need for more space, as these services  gain popularity. In fact, those who I’ve talked to about recent relocations seemed to be under the same impression. I suppose it was for that reason that I was unimpressed by the services’ new spaces.

As a frequent visitor of the SPC and Food for Thought’s old spaces in Founders Hall, I was surprised to feel even more cramped in the new locations. While the square-footage of the old and new spaces is supposedly the same, the long rectangular rooms that now house these services, along with the narrow hallways outside of the rooms, are missing open space within the area that visitors use for the services, as well as within the area where visitors might congregate when waiting for their turn to be able to utilize the services.

On the bright side, food will be delivered on the same floor as Food for Thought’s new location. This means the deliveries, which occur the second and fourth Thursdays of each month, will no longer need to be navigated through elevators and multiple hallways.

But as it turns out, the move to St. John’s Hall was an administrative decision and not necessarily a move for more space.

I spoke to SPC Coordinator Sue Fust shortly after Food for Thought and the SPC reopened. Since the space was still new to those working in these service centers, there was still a bit of trial and error to figure out how to best utilize the rooms.

“It’s an adjustment,” Fust explained. “We’re still learning.”

At the time we spoke, the SPC had essentially all the elements of its old office in the new setup, with missing equipment on its way. Students should still be able to receive the same great services from the SPC and Food for Thought.  

The SPC opened in 2012 with the goal of supporting students with dependents. Numerous services and amenities are offered at the SPC: knowledgeable staff, mentors and a resource library; computer, printer, microwave, fridge, coffee maker; kid-friendly area with toys and books.

For Fust, working in the SPC shed a light on the amount of food insecurity students were facing. “What I noticed was, with the SPC, the most common referral I was giving was for food,” said Fust. This inspired her to reach out to Good in the ‘Hood (a local nonprofit) and university administration to create a food pantry for Metro State students.

Food for Thought opened in February 2015 to provide food security to all Metro State students. The food students receive from this pantry comes from Second Harvest Heartland, Good in the ‘Hood, donations, community gardens and grant money.

While the recent relocation has pros and cons, it has also raised questions and concerns among university community members.

“We want to know what students are thinking…because I think the student voice is important,” Fust said. So both the SPC and Food for Thought have notebooks available for visitors to leave comments.

A common subject within the anonymous comments? Lack of space.

Some people I spoke to on campus also suggested that the former Educated Palate—which has  been empty since Alimama’s opened in the Student Center—would be a perfect spot for Food for Thought. Located in New Main’s lower level, the kitchen and cafe has ample space for food storage and visitors. Hopefully the university administration will consider this more spacious option to help Food for Thought serve more than 1,000 students and their families.  

I urge students to make their voices heard. Share opinions about the relocation with university administration, perhaps through email or at President Arthur’s open office hours. Let’s reiterate the importance of these student services on campus.