Duo cooking up plans to improve food pantry
Great Falls College MSU student Nolin Waterhouse is working to improve the school's food pantry and reduce any stigma associated with using it.
Nolin Waterhouse and David Mariani love food.
Now, they are looking to share that love and the food itself with the Great Falls College campus community.
The two grocery store veterans have teamed up to give the food pantry on campus a higher profile while reducing any attached stigma about using the pantry.
"They have done such a good job of organizing the pantry and promoting it around campus," said Dr. Susan J. Wolff, CEO/dean of Great Falls College MSU. "It's great to see our students doing something to help others out. We all know that there are people who can use a hand right now."
Waterhouse is getting his associate's degree with the plan to transfer to the University of Montana to get a bachelor's degree in social work, and Mariani is the first-year Montana Campus Compact AmeriCorps leader on campus who has helped Waterhouse organize and promote the food pantry along with his other duties.
Right now, Waterhouse and Mariani are cooking up plans – see what we did there? – for a Chopped Challenge, based on the television show, Chopped.
The challenge means you can go to the food pantry at B104 and pick up a bag of ingredients, bring them home and concoct a dish with those items and any that you want to add.
You must also provide a recipe and dish description along with a short video (30 to 60 seconds) judging it and a photo of the final product.
"With COVID, we can't, unfortunately, bring them to campus and try them all," Waterhouse said.
The competition ends Nov. 4.
It is just one way Waterhouse and Mariani are increasing exposure to the food pantry.
They have used their knowledge of the grocery business – Mariani worked at both Albertson's stores in Great Falls for many years and Waterhouse worked at one in high school in Olympia, Wash. – to put the food on better display while also improving the system to account for pantry usage.
"My vision was basically to bring life to this department and this school," said Mariani, who was a student here many years ago before getting his bachelor's degree from the University of Providence this spring.
"I was bored in my apartment thinking about how I could be involved more in my community or with my college, and I remembered last fall they needed someone to help with the pantry," he said. "When I was 16, I worked at a grocery store, and I thought, 'I wouldn't mind doing that, helping them get organized and bring everything to face right and stuff.'"
He worked with his advisor and applied for the 20-hour-a-week job through work-study, and got it.
"I took it over, reorganized everything and got rid of everything that was old," he said. "We just made it better. It felt really good because people noticed right away."
And then people started using it more.
The increase in usage also could have something to do with the economy, but the need is always there, Mariani said.
"There are always people who are in a little need of assistance all year, every year," he said. "I've done volunteer work with all kinds of organizations, and it's just something I enjoy, and I know people really appreciate when others are looking out for them."
Waterhouse, who started at Great Falls College in the fall of 2019 plans to finish his associate's this school year and then transfer to the University of Montana for the 2021-2022 school year, said he is still hoping to see more usage.
To that end, he is working on eliminating any feelings of a stigma for those who use the pantry from time to time.
"I think some people think there's a bad rap, but we want students to know that is not the case," he said. "It's there for them. A lot of the food, if it goes bad, we have to get rid of it. We don't want things to go bad. We want them to leave the pantry."
The pantry itself is only open during the hours Waterhouse is able to physically staff it, but if there is nobody there, go to the Office of Student Engagement outside the Academic Success Center.
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