Hormel Foods donation to Cats’ Cupboard helps feed K-State students

Cats' Cupboard, located in Fairchild 009, supplies free food and other items to students. The mission of Cats' Cupboard is to provide access to nutritious food and support through initiatives that promote health, success and well-being. (Alex Shaw | Collegian Media Group)

Last fall, a representative from Hormel Foods came to Kansas State to meet with Mitzi Richards, senior director of corporate and foundation relations at the KSU Foundation. As they were walking across campus, they walked by a message written in sidewalk chalk promoting the new university food pantry, Cats’ Cupboard.

The message piqued the representative’s interest and ultimately lead to a multi-year arrangement for Hormel to provide support to Cats’ Cupboard.

Richards and the KSU Foundation helped coordinate Hormel’s donation, which totaled over 1,000 pounds of food to Cats’ Cupboard. Donated items included chili, peanut butter, cans of Spam and protein bars. Hormel also gave $5,000 to the food pantry and has committed to give $5,000 next year as well.

Jennifer Dao, Hormel’s supervisor of professional development, has worked at Hormel for eight years. She said Hormel is always looking for opportunities to help end hunger in communities.

“We thought it was a great opportunity to support K-State and the students,” Dao said. “As a food company, we are committed to helping with hunger-relief efforts.”

The donation was a big help to Cats’ Cupboard, which depends strictly on donations for its food and hygiene products.

Cats’ Cupboard opened in September in response to students having difficulty affording food and personal hygiene products. Previously, there was a small food pantry at the Office of Student Life, but Cats’ Cupboard is a major expansion, now located in Fairchild Hall and serving both undergraduate and graduate students.

Erin Bishop, full-time coordinator of Cats’ Cupboard, said she typically has between 60 and 75 students come in every week. She said there are a fair number of regulars, but new faces come in often. Seventeen student volunteers and two part-time assistants help her.

Maureen Graham, Cats’ Cupboard assistant and senior in dietetics, said it is rewarding to see students get the help they need.

“Students seem appreciative, even if they are hesitant to come at first,” Graham said.

While students do check in with their ID cards, all information at Cats’ Cupboard is confidential.

Cats’ Cupboard has a wide variety of non-perishable items available to students. Some of the most popular items from the Hormel donation were the more than 700 Muscle Milk protein bars, which didn’t last long on the shelves.

Bishop said she is always in need of protein donations, as it is a great way to provide hunger relief for students on a tight food budget. In addition to protein bars, she said canned chicken and tuna are great items to donate.

Cats’ Cupboard also hosts a variety of events to help students. Their next event is “You Can Cook” at 4:30 p.m. on April 2 in Kramer Dining Center room 241A. It will teach students how to cook in a small space with limited resources. There will be free food samples and prize drawings as well.

Flyers are available at Cats’ Cupboard, Fairchild 009 and will soon be on their website. More information can be found at k-state.edu/cats-cupboard.