Cats’ Cupboard volunteers keep service operational through pandemic

Despite the pandemic, Cats' Cupboard remains open for those who are food insecure in the Manhattan area. (File photo by Katelin Woods | Collegian Media Group)

Despite the uncertainty in the United States since March, Cats’ Cupboard continues to provide food items for those who don’t have access to a reliable food source in Manhattan.

Sarah Hoyt, operations lead, said the motto of Cats’ Cupboard is “take what you need, use what you take and be mindful of your fellow Wildcats.” Hoyt took over as operations lead for Cats’ Cupboard last September and is the only full-time employee throughout the pandemic.

When pandemic struck and businesses were forced to shut down, Cats’ Cupboard stayed open.

“Between March, when online orders started, and Aug. 16 when they stopped, we filled 1,600 orders,” Hoyt said.

Hoyt credits volunteers for their contributions to maintaining the service.

Merani Rivarola-Gragg, graduate student and food pantry volunteer, started at Cats’ Cupboard in June and said she doesn’t know what it was like there prior to the pandemic.

Rivarola-Gragg works 20 hours a week. Three other undergraduate student employees work 15 hours a week to keep operations running. One of them is on-site whenever the pantry is open — either running the front desk or doing whatever they can to help out.

“It’s been a lot working at a food pantry in a pandemic,” Rivarola-Gragg said. “It’s been super worthwhile, but I wouldn’t say it’s been easy by any means.”

Cats’ Cupboard must keep the pantry stocked and organized at all times in order to serve the community.

“Every single hour that we are open, and some hours that we’re not even open, we have volunteers here to help us,” Hoyt said.

One weekly volunteer, Rachel Dodaro, senior in life sciences, said it’s all about giving back to the community.

Dodaro and the other volunteers help by stocking shelves, organizing the pantry and keeping things clean.

“There’s people right here in our K-State community who need help getting food on their tables every night,” Dodaro said.

Hoyt said Cats’ Cupboard is open for anyone who may need it.

“This is a hard time and we want to be here for as many people as possible,” she said.