Cats’ Cupboard hopes to maintain momentum from $320,000 fundraising day

Cats' Cupboard is seeing an all-time high of student traffic this month, with an average of about 190 students a week. "We are always in need of pretty much all items because they are moving very quickly," Erin Bishop, the food pantry coordinator, said. (Katelin Woods | Collegian Media Group)

Since Cats’ Cupboard opened its doors on Sept. 25, 2017, the number of students visiting the campus food pantry has dramatically increased. Upon first opening, the food pantry served around three students per day. By spring 2019, that number grew to an average of about 22 students, and this month the number comes out to 32 students per day, according to a campus poll.

Last March, the pantry partnered with the Kansas State University Foundation to raise over $320,000 from a variation of over 1,400 donations.

Coordinator Erin Bishop said this funding brought several changes throughout Cats’ Cupboard, including a new position in the office, increased usage of the pantry and the passage of the Kansas Health Foundation Grant which allows Cats’ Cupboard to extend its reach to K-State faculty and staff. The money also allowed Cats’ Cupboard to partner with Harvesters Community Food Network.

In addition to the recent fundraising, Student Government Association is working to contribute to the food pantry. Sadie Polson, chief of staff and senior in marketing, explained that as tuition continues to rise, SGA hopes to make the pantry an easy and accessible option for all students.

“Forty-six percent of students have at some point been food insecure or have skipped a meal,” Polson said. “Our administration in SGA has made it a priority to focus on food insecurity. We are trying to lock down funding to start an endowment for Cats’ Cupboard. We’re also looking at other options as far as opening up different stations across campus.”

Bishop added that help from students is another huge factor in what keeps the pantry functioning. Volunteer spots for the pantry are full, but she said students can always help out in other ways.

“If students have clubs or organizations, they can consider hosting a food drive,” Bishop said.

Looking forward, Bishop said she hopes growth continues. The current goals at Cats’ Cupboard are to continue keeping the shelves stocked, working with the regional food bank, engage the larger community and get additional help for food drives.

Through several upcoming events, Bishop and the Cats’ Cupboard team are working to spread the word about the campus pantry to reach those goals. They are currently campaigning for the Hunger Action month of September with different events such as tabling in the K-State Student Union to start conversation with students about food insecurity. They will also hold an open cupboard event Oct. 14 to 18 and a World Food Day celebration on Oct. 16.

Riley County is the most food insecure county in the state of Kansas, and college students tend to be particularly in a bind. That is why the upcoming events are so important, and spreading the word is essential, Bishop said.

“We know that word-of-mouth is our most effective marketing campaign,” Bishop said. “Sixty-four percent of students go to Cats’ Cupboard because someone they trusted told them about it. So, the more folks we can get through the door the more we can spread that awareness.”