FOND DU LAC, Wis. (Sabre Voice) – For many of us, food is a comfort. It’s the mundane, never-ending conversation about what the next meal will be. But for many of us, that question of “what’s for dinner?” is met with worry rather than mild inconvenience. Concerns about food security aren’t some far off, third-world issue. They’re real, and they’re much closer to home than you might think.
According to Feeding America, Fond du Lac County’s food insecurity rate, or the rate of people “without consistent access to adequate food” is around 8%. Nearly one in 10 people in Wisconsin don’t have food security. Which means at least two people in each classroom that aren’t always sure where their next meal is coming from. This is something I also struggled with early on in my undergraduate career and nearly two years later, I have learned a resource on Marian’s campus which helps others who have struggled: the Mother Agnes Cupboard.
In 2018, with the help of the Sisters of St. Agnes, Sister Edie Crews started the Mother Agnes Cupboard as a resource for students and faculty who struggled with food security. In 2019, the Cupboard started offering hygiene products as well as food.
When I was a sophomore here at Marian, I was a full–time student, working as many hours as I could. This meant turning down events I would have loved to be a part of that could’ve helped me grow my skills for the future. I had to choose between extracurriculars and a paycheck almost every single time. I felt like no one understood that I couldn’t just “call in” for work; calling in was never an option in my mind. Survival always came before anything else.
One of my classmates, Becky, overheard me talking about how I missed another poetry reading because I had to work. She said she totally understood; she was a single mother and going back for her degree, working just like I was, and hated having to choose between extracurriculars and necessities.
When I asked her how she managed her responsibilities, she told me about the Cupboard. She described it as, “a hidden gem on campus that’s helped me more than anyone could ever know”. I initially declined her offer to go, saying there were so many others who could use it more than I could. Becky told me, “We all say that, and it’s just because we know what it’s like to be without. But we don’t have to be.”.
When we walked into Campus Ministry, we were met with a warm welcome from Sr. Edie, who gave Becky a hug and asked about her daughter. Sr. Edie led us to a spare room, and I was stunned. There were all kinds of cupboards filled with cans and boxes of food, bottles of soaps, toothpaste and personal care items. Sr. Edie gave each of us a reusable bag, and said we were welcome to whatever we needed. I was hesitant to take anything, but picked a couple boxes of pasta, a bottle of body soap, and a can of soup. Sr. Edie looked in my bag and said, “I think you can fit a bit more in there.” She insisted I take a few more things and started handing me all sorts of food items. She insisted I would leave with a full bag, and that I didn’t need to worry about how much I took.
Afterwards, I thanked her over and over. When I got back to my car, I looked at the bag filled with enough food to last me and my partner at least two weeks, and I cried. Someone on campus understood that we don’t always have enough. Someone understood that asking for help is a monumental task. Someone understood that for someone who always gives, to take is next to impossible.
Currently, the Mother Agnes Cupboard is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Campus Ministry, and Sr. Edie will welcome the pantry for you without any questions.
If you would like to set up a specific time to use the Cupboard, she is available via email at [email protected]. For anyone looking to donate to the Cupboard, donations can be left in campus ministry, or given to Sister Edie throughout the school year.
For anyone who could use some extra help but, like me, finds it impossible to ask, I want you to know that the Mother Agnes Cupboard is not a place of judgement. You are allowed to use resources that are available without feeling guilt. Sister Edie has fostered an environment of peace and generosity that is second to none.
In her own words, “No one should feel like they can’t use the Cupboard. It’s here for anyone who needs it, no questions asked.”