Cats’ Cupboard grows in popularity among students as fundraising day nears

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Cordell Neely, senior in nutrition and health, rearranges cans in the Cats' Cupboard food pantry. Neely has been working at the pantry since it opened in 2017, and he helps about 20 students each day. (Rowan Jones | Collegian Media Group)

If you were to wander into Fairchild Hall, you would be surprised by how calm it is. There are offices for the University Honors Program, the Office of Nationally Competitive Scholarships, study abroad offices and much more.

But past these offices, down some stairs to the basement, around a few corners and down a white, empty hallway, you will come to a hidden gem: the Cats’ Cupboard food pantry.

Cats’ Cupboard assists students on campus who are struggling with food insecurity by providing free food items, and it is the focus of the Kansas State University Foundation’s first “Day of Giving” event, All In for K-State.

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Graphic by Will Averna

Erin Bishop, food pantry coordinator, said Cats’ Cupboard sees about 21 students per day on average, Sunday through Friday.

“This is a big improvement from when we first opened,” Bishop said. “Then, we were lucky if we got two customers.”

In the time since the pantry opened in September 2017 to March 1 of this year, the pantry has had 4,568 visits. Those visits are divided among 805 “unique students,” which are what Bishop and other Cats’ Cupboard employees call individual visitors.

Since the beginning of the spring semester, there have been 304 unique students.

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

Cats’ Cupboard relies on donations of nonperishable food items, toiletries and kitchen equipment. Over 53,000 items have been donated since the pantry made its debut.

Tabitha Brownell, senior in nutrition and health, is one of the student volunteers for Cats’ Cupboard. Many of the student volunteers are majoring in nutritional sciences or dietetics, and they find recipes to share with students as well as help students find the items they need in the pantry.

“I think that it is really cool that I get to use what I have learned here,” Brownell said. “Students come in here and can get sack lunches we make as well as nonperishable food and other items. They usually bring bags with them, but we also provide plastic sacks. Most students only take a few things at a time because they are walking or riding their bikes.”

Cats’ Cupboard also provides vouchers for products from Call Hall and the Milling Science Club.

“The Call Hall vouchers are good for $20 worth of ground beef, milk, eggs and cheese,” said Cordell Neely, Cats’ Cupboard volunteer and senior in nutrition and health. “The voucher for the [Milling] club gets you two bags of flour and pancake mix. The vouchers are good for one month after you receive them, and they are very popular.”

The KSU Foundation has partnered with Cats’ Cupboard over the month of March to prepare for All In for K-State on March 27. The Foundation has focused on promoting the food pantry and raising awareness about food insecurity on campus.

“For us, we are going about business as usual,” Bishop said. “The Foundation has been great about communicating with us and answering our questions. We are excited to see what happens.”

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I’m Bailey Britton, a freshman from Colby, KS. I am double majoring in print journalism and secondary education with a focus in English and journalism. This semester I am of the assistant news editors. Writing and reading have always been passions of mine. When I have free time, I like to play tennis and be active or curl up with a good book and a cup of coffee.