Aaniiih Nakoda College (ANC) is located on the Fort Belknap reservation in northcentral Montana. The area meets federal guidelines for extreme poverty, where high unemployment rates exist and many students find themselves in a crisis situation when it comes to providing food for their families.
In the spring of 2015, Greg Drummer, a business instructor and advisor for ANC’s American Indian Business Leaders (AIBL), told the student organization a story about one of their fellow undergraduates who thought she may have to quit school because she had no food to feed her family. Upon hearing this, AIBL launched a student food bank, which began operating in a small office space on campus. Since then, its members have changed, but its mission has stayed the same.
It is a food-oriented service business, and only registered students qualify for assistance. Offering large quantities of quality food for students is seen as part of ANC’s overall retention plan. By alleviating the hardship of providing for one’s family, which a surprising number of students face, AIBL and ANC hope students will remain in school and achieve their academic goals.
ANC’s AIBL chapter recently sent three members to compete in the organization’s National Leadership Conference in Chandler, Arizona, where they took second place in the business plan competition. Their presentation was on the student food bank. Team leader Mel Lorraine Doney, Brenna King, and Daniel Werk presented the project to the judges. The team noted that based on 104 student aid applications there was a total unmet need of $1,493,900 for the ANC student population. They pointed out that fundraising efforts such as raffles, silent auctions, hot lunch sales, and the operation of a daily coffee shop have led to deposits of over $7,000 while total expenditures for food items for AIBL’s food bank are around $4,800. By shopping at weekly sales and for special case sales, the club has consistently saved between 25 and 75% off the regular retail value of the food items they have purchased. The organization has also received donations of cash, foodstuffs, and other items—including a buffalo and the meat processing fee, which the local tribal council donated.
“The AIBL students have invested their time and efforts toward this cause in ways I could never have anticipated,” says Drummer. “They truly have given 100% to help their fellow students in this way. It is a testimony to what can be accomplished when people decide to be of service to others.”