In addition to nonperishables within their permanent facility in Fairchild Hall, the Cats’ Cupboard also offers animal products through a partnership with the College of Agriculture’s Call Hall voucher program.
Erin Bishop, food pantry coordinator, said for 80 students a month, four months a semester, Call Hall is donating $20 into their Wildcat ID, which will allow them to shop for ground beef, eggs, milk and cheese.
Bishop said there are many ways the program strives to help students.
In a recent campus climate survey conducted by the Office of Student Life, 14 percent of student respondents indicated they did not have enough money to meet their basic necessities, with an additional 51 percent of students reporting they were unable to purchase groceries at least once in the three preceding months due to insufficient funds.
“The first initiative is to fight food insecurity on college campuses and the ways that we’re doing that include providing a nonperishable pantry with the hygiene items and the kitchen equipment, which allows folks to make the food,” Bishop said.
More recently, the food pantry has been partnering with other campus entities to expand their initiatives. In association with the hydro-culture class, the Cats’ Cupboard offers hydroponically grown greens. The pantry is also working with Call Hall to offer additional foodstuffs.
Cats' Cupboard has busiest week since inception
The idea, Bishop said, originated from students who wanted to offer nonperishable options for students.
“We thought, ‘We are a very resource-rich campus, we are focused on food and agriculture is our thing,'” Bishop said. “We just started having conversations with the department head over at animal science and explored some possibilities and ways of doing it and they offered up the finances.”
Evan Titgemeyer, interim department head of animal sciences and industry, said participating in the program seemed like a good way to help students in need.
“I have learned through this process of working with Cats’ Cupboard that [food insecurity is] much more pervasive than what I had originally believed,” Titgemeyer said. “I had not realized that there were quite so many students that were in need to the extent that they would actually experience food insecurity.”
Titgemeyer said the department is doing what they believe is a very valuable service in promoting the food industry in addition to combatting food insecurity.
“This program is kind of a microcosm of that in the sense that we’re just trying to feed a few hungry people now,” Titgemeyer said. “But as a department, our goal with our teaching and our research and our extension program is all to help feed the world.”
Heather Reed, assistant vice president of student life, said she thinks there are different levels of food insecurity on campus.
Some students, Reed said, need occasional help in regards to affording food, while others experience it as a daily struggle. No matter what, she said, struggling to pay for meals can negatively affect students’ emotional energy.
Reed said she thinks programs like the voucher system with the Cats’ Cupboard and the animal sciences and industry’s program are beneficial because individuals are stepping up to help students that have very basic needs.
“It’s being able to handle one of those major needs of students—to have adequate nutrition—that allows them to be fully present in their classes and not to have that worry over their head of whether they’re going to be able to eat or not,” Reed said. “That voucher is a great way for students to get more protein in their diet and have a little variety of things.”