Central Lakes College-Brainerd Campus will host an open house at the recently expanded food pantry 4-5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 27, at the Student Life Center, 501 W. College Drive.

The event is open to the public. Light appetizers and refreshments will be provided.

CLC’s Food Pantry recently underwent an expansion to better serve food-insecure students. Students will return to school this fall with more free food options in the larger pantry.

“Expanding our food shelf is more than just purchasing shelves and additional food,” said Erich Heppner, director of Student Life, in a news release. “It’s making a direct investment in our students and their health.”

Heppner said the location of the food pantry, inside of the Student Life Center, has been a great location so students feel welcomed to come, hang out between classes and take food without any judgment. The obstacle of the location was limited space.

Through a Crow Wing Energized Community Grant, the space was nearly doubled with additional storage and refrigeration. A prep station with microwaves is in the pantry so students can prepare quick meals between classes or before tests. While there are pop-top soups and microwave meals, students are also offered the opportunity to take food items that they can use to make complete meals. Educational cooking classes are in the Student Life Center to encourage and educate students on making healthy meals.

Students are inspired to make healthy choices through the organization of the food pantry. Fruits and vegetables are the first thing students see upon entering. Food categories are organized like a traditional grocery store with the food groups identified with signage. Healthier choices are displayed at eye-level while more indulgent options are placed closer to the ground. Central Lakes College is currently evaluating other partnership opportunities, so students can be offered even more fresh food. Retail Rescue, a partnership with local grocery stores, is vital in receiving free food donations while also helping retailers from throwing away food.

“Crow Wing Energized is so proud of the work Central Lakes College does for its students,” said Kalsey Stults, Community Health and Wellness specialist, in a news release. “This is just one of many examples of staff taking initiatives to create healthy environments for their students. We are proud to partner with them to make healthy initiatives like this possible.”