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Sunday December 05, 2021
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Feeding the Starving Student



The roots of the Maize & Blue Cupboard began in the 2014 winter semester. Wesley Zhu, Forest Burczak, and other members of the student entrepreneurial club Enactus initially set out to rescue food from local restaurants and grocery stores and distribute it to students and others. The plan shifted when they found that most area restaurants and grocery stores, as well as the on-campus Student Recovery Network, were already donating to Food Gatherers. After brainstorming with Food Gatherers, they decided to leave food rescue to the older group and focus on distribution.

Keith Soster, director of Student Engagement for Michigan Dining, suggested concentrating on grad students. "We connected with North Campus graduate communities by sending a survey link to and talking with resident assistants," Burczak says. "The results confirmed that grad students had food insecurity. We connected with Food Gatherers and arranged for them to deliver produce to distribute to students on campus and formed partnerships with churches to arrange monthly distributions."

The University of Michigan Student Food Pantry, as it was then called, held its first pilot run at the Christian Reformed Church on Broadway in April 2014. That summer it partnered with Student Food Co., a student group that runs a weekly produce stand at Haven Hall. Soon after, Burczak says, they changed the name to the Maize & Blue Cupboard to clarify its identify as a student-, rather than university-run, organization. Zoe Hawtof, who is also the vice president of marketing for the Student Food Co., says "cupboard" also carries less stigma.

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