KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — A new program at Western Michigan University is working to help students who struggle with food insecurity.

The partnership between WMU Dining Services and the Invisible Need Project helps students who cannot afford enough food to meet their nutritional needs.

According to Emily Hazel, a nutrition specialist with WMU Dining Services, students are permitted to pick up meals and other food every two weeks at the food pantry on campus.

“Not only is this eliminating some of the food that might be thrown away, but it’s also providing students with food when they’re not able to access it,” Hazel said.

Rob Powers, sous-chef at the Bernhard Center, says the kitchen donates approximately 40 containers of food each week. The new pilot partnership is just a small part of the services that the Invisible Need Project provides, which includes a food pantry among other services.   

“We provide very healthy meals for them,” Powers said. “We test them out before we give them to students.”

Food prepared for the Invisible Need Project at Western Michigan University. (March 2, 2020)

Kelly Reed, co-chair of the Invisible Need Project committee, says many students are not able to afford enough food.

“It’s a constant struggle for students,” Reed said.

The food pantry has seen an increased demand since it was established.

“With the students who do come and visit the pantry, we had over 1,000 individual visits last semester, so we have seen a rise over the past several years since the food pantry started in 2014,” Reed said.

The frozen meals have been popular with students since the program launched in the beginning of February. It is open to students who live on or off campus.

“We only have a couple on the shelves right now and we’ve been very grateful for the weekly deliveries,” Reed said.

The kitchen staff who prepares the meals says it is very exciting to know the food is helping students in need.

“I think it’s very rewarding,” Powers said. “Knowing that you’re helping somebody out that can’t afford something.”

The pilot program launched just under four weeks ago and if successful, it will be expanding to additional dining centers. For more information on the project or to find out how you can provide support, visit the Invisible Need Project website.