Author: Danae Lopez

VCU RamPantry Founder Honored


Virginia Commonwealth University RamPantry Founder Terrence Walker has been honored with Gov. McAuliffe’s Public Service Award for his work in creating the pantry. Walker helped develop a practical solution to support the needs of a segment of VCU’s student population.  After conducting a survey that revealed 57 percent of respondents were not sure each day where they would get their next meal, a statistic comparable to that for other U.S. colleges and universities, Mr. Walker started the “Ram Pantry.”  Mr. Walker, an administrative assistant for University Counseling Services, worked with others to secure space, tools and equipment with little to no money for start-up costs.  By January 2014, the pantry was staffed and running as a student organization, with Mr. Walker serving as the staff liaison.  In a year’s time, the Ram Pantry served more than 1,800 students, faculty and staff.  The students running the Ram Pantry have now partnered with Food Lion grocery stores and other vendors to keep pantry shelves stocked.  Senior executives from Food Lion have been so impressed that they have asked VCU to serve as a model for universities near the company’s North Carolina headquarters.


We are so proud of you and your work Terrence!


Originally published by Clare Cady May 26, 2015

Training Volunteers

Most campus food banks or pantries would not be successful if it were not for the support of a strong volunteer base. Even if there are paid staff, volunteers are usually the heart of any hunger relief organization. Since we are here for our students who are experiencing food insecurity, we need to develop our volunteer force so we can create the most positive and comfortable experience possible.

  • If you are not doing a training for your volunteers you are doing both them and the students you serve a disservice. They are the customers and you are the customer service agents. If you have ever gotten bad service I imagine that this metaphor drives that point home.
  • Be sure to include in your training:
    • A big THANK YOU
    • Food safety – any policies and/or procedures you have, and any you have to follow.
    • Emotional safety – this includes confidentiality and how to create comfort for the student while they utilize your food bank or pantry.
    • Any other safety concerns you may have.
    • Full orientation to your space, policies, and procedures.
  • Other training topics that could be useful:
    • What to do in case of an emergency
    • What to do if there are grievances
    • How to repack foods
  • There are a number of ways to give your training. Here are a few we know work:
    • One on one meetings with staff and volunteers.
    • Group sessions
    • Powerpoint self-guided training with a staff check-in
    • Manuals
    • Other ideas that we have not seen: websites, YouTube Videos
  • Here is a link to the pantry training Powerpoint from Oregon State. This is done in combination with a food safety video, a short quiz, and a full tour and orientation to the pantry space:

Originally published by Clare Cady May 19, 2015

The Family-Friendly Pantry

At OSU we came across a significant barrier to services for our clients a few years back when we were told we were in violation of a policy in the kitchen where we held our distributions: no children under the age of 16 allowed.

This posed a serious issue for us because we serve such a large number of families, many of whom were single-parent/guardian households who needed to bring their kids with them because they could not afford child care for the time they were getting their food. We also worked hard to make our space and our practice family-friendly with kids’ snacks, toys, and videos that were good for all ages. We panicked a bit when we first heard the news – this would mean that many of those we served could not make it to get the food they so desperately needed to support their families while they sought their degree.

Fortunately for us we work on a campus where the climate is supportive of our service, and we were able to get a meeting with the folks who manage the kitchen space. We went in seeking to understand…why is this an issue? What can we do to meet the needs of all parties? We quickly learned that the policy was in place because of things like hot surfaces and sharp objects in the area. This WAS a kitchen after all. There were times even when there were people using the kitchen to support cultural events on campus while we were doing distributions. This was not ideal for anyone, but with space as much at a premium as it was, we had no choice but to share. We were able to voice our concerns about holding fast on the U-16 rule.

What we came to was an acceptable compromise in which children under the age of 16 were to be with their parent/guardian at all times, and if they were under 6 their parent/guardian would be holding their hand. We rewrote the policy and signed on the dotted line. After this we turned around and developed some internal policies and practices that help us to manage this rule, as well as create a space with an even greater sense of welcome to students with children:

  • We offer treats at the sign-in that volunteers give directly to the children (with parent/guardian permission of course). In doing this we get a moment where we can directly ask the child to stay close to their parent/guardian while they are there.
  • We learn children’s names. We found that this makes the family more open to complying with the rules.
  • We know where to bend the rules…in the waiting area we let the kids run free (or as free as they are allowed to be). When volunteers bring the family to the back and into the kitchen they remind everyone that they need to stick close.
  • We try to engage the children in the pantry process. Kids who are engaged in picking foods, talking with the volunteer have fun AND are less likely to stray away from the group.
  • Volunteers are always available to sit with kids while parent/guardian goes through the distribution. We have a break room space where the kids can hang with coloring books and toys. This space is visible to the parent, and we do not assume responsibility for the children…we just kick it with them within eye and earshot of family.

Having a family-friendly space is important, and if you take a few precautions and positive actions it is doable.


What do you do to ensure that families can access your services? Email us at

Originally published by Clare Cady May 12, 2015


Food Pantry Fliers 2014- 2015

We all do different kinds of outreach to let people know about our services, and many campus pantries use fliers. Here is an example of the flier we have used at Oregon State for years. We have done it both as a 1/2 sheet AND as a fridge magnet.


What do you do to get the word out? Send us your fliers, brochures, and other media so we can create an outreach collection on the site!

Originally published by Clare Cady May 5, 2015

200 Reflections

Hey all –

I don’t know how much you know about how CUFBA is run, but it’s definitely a labor of love and passion. Nate and I created it in our spare time three years ago with a little bit of money from Michigan State (thank you!) and some internet elbow grease from the student staffers at Oregon State Human Services Resource Center (thank you too!). We never thought that an effort to connect the few campus food pantries, banks, and closets that were around in 2011-2012 would turn into such an incredible movement. We definitely never thought that we’d be considered the voice and knowledge holders of this work. Today it is still just Nate and I running things…both still in our spare time. I am the “voice” while Nate takes on our technical work…getting things lined up like the forum and wrangling our web guys to get them to move faster on all of our ideas. We have lots and lots and lots of ideas.

Nate is a PhD student and I have been working full time as a student affairs professional, so we apologize if we don’t get back to emails as quickly as we would if CUFBA was our main gig. For a few weeks I will be a little off the radar because I am taking a new position at Single Stop USA in New York. Going through a cross-country move makes it hard to be on top of things, but I am writing to you from Lawrence, KS, where I will be speaking at University of Kansas folks as they start their hunger movement on campus. I will be talking about CUFBA and highlighting some of your great work.

CUFBA is about to reach 200 member schools, and we are grateful that there are so many schools out there looking to alleviate student food insecurity. In the coming months we have plans to create a larger pool of resources to share with you and other schools focused on this important issue. We may put out calls for things like budgets, food lists, volunteer management protocols, and other things that can help build our team capacity and develop best practices. I am planning a YouTube video series, and I hope that campuses will contribute with virtual tours.

We are also looking to bring on a couple of new folks to join us in CUFBA development. If you have interest in pitching in, we are hoping to find people interested in engaging in campus consultations and/or creating educational resources. Shoot us an email

So thanks to you all…for your work, your patience, and your support!

In service to students,


Originally published by Clare Cady April 28, 2015

SACSA Conference Collaboration



Anyone interested in collaboration on a conference proposal??? Connect with Jillian!

For more info on SACSA go here


Did you present at a conference on your pantry, on student food insecurity? Are you willing to share your resources with us? We’d love to be able to post them on our site. Please email them to

Originally published by Clare Cady April 7, 2015


Hey all,

Clare here – thought I would share with you some of my thoughts from my time at the NASPA Annual Conference in New Orleans. I had the amazing privilege to rep Oregon State, CUFBA, and the Socioeconomic and Class Issues in Higher Education KC in a number of ways. There were over 7,800 people at the conference, and a good number of CUFBA schools. It was fun to connect, teach, learn, and dream about ways to support students.

The most impactful experience to me and to what CUFBA is and means was the pre-conference workshop I was able to run with colleague Sara Goldrick-Rab from the University of Wisconsin. We had 25 participants, and a few of them were folks we’ve had the privilege of working with through CUFBA. Our conversations ranged from the reason financial aid is no longer supporting students and families, to how we create programs to support homeless students, to the nuts and bolts of creating a campus pantry program. All of the conversations were trained on answering shared question: how do we support students experiencing economic crisis, poverty, and other socioeconomic challenges in their persistence toward a degree.

A couple of things came up for me while I was in the NASPA space that I thought I would share:

1) I have been thinking a lot about #CUFBACreates and IT IS TIME. Who wants to work with me in developing open-source digital tools that support campuses in starting pantries?

2) Pantries are just the start. We need to think about what is next after we get them going. Yes, this is a lot to ask in many cases. That said, we need to work to shape the campus environments where our students study. We need to think about their access to other services and resources. We need to consider policies that alleviate rather than create barriers for students. I am a West Wing nerd, and I will end this point with the Jed Bartlet quote, “what’s next?”

3) We have SO MANY ALLIES. VP’s, Presidents, Human Services Agencies, Nonprofits, Staff, Faculty, Students…I met people from all of these categories and more who were excited about what we are doing, and want to get involved. Let’s harness this energy and move forward together.

I should share with you all that I am about to make a significant transition from Oregon State to work at Single Stop USA to work with their National College Programs. I am hoping to carve out some more time in the future for CUFBA endeavors, and I am hoping we can loop in some more members with our leadership. Please let me know if you have interest in being involved. If you are wondering what “involvement” may look like, I will be posting something about that soon.

All the best,


Originally published by Clare Cady March 31, 2015

Forum is UP!!!

Hey all –

We heard from many of you that you would like a space to connect, converse, share, and support. We are working on doing that in a number of ways, and one of those is our new Forum here on the website. It’s easy to register, and we hope that everyone does! Pose questions, share resources, and discuss pertinent topics in our work.

Let us know if you run into any snags or issues. We will work to iron them out.

Nate and Clare

Originally published by Clare Cady March 27, 2015