Cats’ Cupboard faces issues of supply, limited staff during COVID-19 pandemic

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Despite hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Cats' Cupboard is still working to get food to those who need it. (File Photo by Katelin Woods | Collegian Media Group)

With an ongoing pandemic, the on-campus food pantry Cats’ Cupboard faces issues of supply and diminished staff, but continues to keep doors open and reach out to the Kansas State community, Sarah Hoyt, Cats’ Cupboard operations lead, said.

They recently adapted their system to an online order form for K-State students, faculty and staff to continue utilizing their services.

Originally the online order form could only be used by clients that were in the Cats’ Cupboard system from previous use in the semester. This was mainly due to less staff and limited supply, Hoyt said.

“We have gone from having 15 to 20 volunteers who work 20 hours in the pantry plus three undergraduate employees who contribute another 12 hours,” Hoyt said. “Now we have none of them.”

The supply issues also caused Cats’ Cupboard to change how often users could pick up items each week.

“Initially the challenge was how we are going to change our operations,” Hoyt said. “Then, once that happened, we were going to fill orders every day. But, it became clear that with the supply challenges that exist for everyone, in terms of getting groceries and getting things for the shelf, that we weren’t going to have enough stock to be able to fill orders.”

Mary Kate Sutton, Cats’ Cupboard student employee and junior in human development and family sciences, found it difficult to donate food items since many stores have a limited supply, including Amazon.

“I was going to donate some stuff off of our Amazon wish list, but since everyone was buying out-of-bulk, Amazon was out of a lot of things,” Sutton said.

With the limited supply in stores, there is also an influx of users and less donations coming in Joshua Edgar, member of the Cats’ Cupboard advisory board and graduate student in political science, said.

The transition to the online order form also proved difficult for the staff because they could not file their required paperwork for each user.

“That added to the process of serving clients because we had to process that paperwork for new users,” Hoyt said. “So, by saying that we were only going to serve existing users, we cut down on our administrative load and we arrived at a number of users placing orders who we could actually serve with the limited stock we had.”

Eventually, all of the intake paperwork was moved online, streamlining the process. Now, the whole K-State community can utilize the Cats’ Cupboard during this time, Hoyt said.

Edgar also believes there is now a more pressing issue of reaching K-State community members that have moved away from campus.

“The major issue is that, how do we institute a model of long-term campus outreach when most of the campus isn’t there [and] when the need is so much more dispersed,” Edgar said. “That’s been done through creating online portals, through reaching out to community members and community organizations that interact with that need, and trying to expand the capabilities and the potential groups of need that we can reach out to.”

Cats’ Cupboard is currently accepting donations through in-person drop-offs, via the Amazon Wishlist and financial support. To drop off items, the best method is to contact the Cats’ Cupboard and set up a time, Edgar said.

“That way we can arrange ways to get those donations because we want to protect the community members [and] we want to protect the staff while also still maintaining that flow of goods,” Edgar said.

Cats’ Cupboard can be reached at catscupboard@ksu.edu.

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