Summertime Donations

If you run year-round there are some unique opportunities that come in the summer – particularly if you are in a part of the country where winters are not a growing season. This time of year we see fresh produce more readily available, and in many of our communities we see Farmers’ Markets. Here are a few tips on getting some fresh goods to the students you serve.


  • Request a CSA: This stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and means that people pay farmers in advance for a food box (usually weekly) throughout the growing season that offers a variety of seasonal fruits and veggies (and sometimes meats and eggs). It is not uncommon that farmers will donate a weekly box to a local organization. While it may be too late this year (farmers often plan this in the mid to late winter) it is never too late to ask.
  • Farmers’ Markets: It is common that farmers do not want to take their produce home with them at the end of the day. Check in to see if they would be willing to give you what they don’t sell.
  • Community Gardens: People often end up with a glut of something that grows really well that year. If you have a community garden near you it may be a great idea to hang a flier there with information on how to donate.
  • Gleaning: There are a great number of gleaning programs where individuals pick fruits and veggies for local organizations. Often the deal is they get to keep half and donate the other half. Check to see if there are any of these programs in your area and ask to be on the donation list.
  • Classes: Are there courses on your campus that focus on things like organic farming, seed research, or other topics in which the class is going to grow edibles? Contact the professor. Often times what is grown is either donated or left to rot. Makes sense that it gets donated to you!


Originally published by Clare Cady June 15, 2015

Origins: UNLV

Our pantry’s story truly starts with the nation’s Great Recession. Illegal and immoral actions on the part of our largest financial institutions caused a recession of wages, widespread unemployment and the loss of a large swath of homes. 2007-2010 saw statewide spending cuts for education with a 30% reduction in state funding for UNLV. We stopped hiring, encouraged retirements, bought out contracts, and cut department budgets and staffing. Students felt the impact of these actions throughout the campus. Departing professors calledin their book loans, administrative professionals kept hawk-like awareness of every ream of printer paper, H.R. suddenly had all kinds of free time for trashcan basketball when not processing adjunct faculty applications. All of this took place before academics were directly cut. In 2011-2012 whole departments were lost, budget cuts to individual departments ranged from 5 to 7 figures. My department alone, Community Health Sciences, cut about 180k, while our College of Liberal Arts cut about 1.2 million. Faculty staffing on campus was cut by between 1/3 to 1/2. Entire programs were eliminated such as Sports Ed Leadership (BS in Physical Education), Recreation and Sports Management, Informatics, Urban Horticulture and others. The dean of the business school resigned in 2012 directly citing our financial situation. Since the implementation of cuts, classified/professional staff endured the following; loss of longevity pay, the implementation of furloughs, the loss of step increases (Currently returning but not every staff member until summer 2015.), a 5% pay cut with (2.5% returned), a restructuring of healthcare benefits and rise in insurance premiums. Currently there are reports of a reduction in contributions to retirement and the elimination of vision as a healthcare benefit. As the semesters chugged along, among the classified/professional staff and faculty, it was not out of place at the time to say that morale had sunk campus-wide.

For students, costs were rising, choices were shrinking, and some claimed that quality lessened. Between 2002-2012 student tuition was increased 142%. Between 2007 and 2011 it was raised 73% and 13% in 2011 alone. The cost of attendance for residents went from $2,370 in 2002 to $5,740 in 2012. Recently an undergraduate tuition increase of 17% over the next 4 years was approved. Graduate students are also facing a 4% increase. A consistent hardship for some students was that of our graduate assistantships. Current compensation pays less than half of the national average. A current UNLV GA is $1,300 with a take home of $1,150 a month. This does include a reduction in tuition of around 60% and student health insurance. Campus GA contracts are only 9 months in duration so not only is the employment compensation roughly 1/2 that of the national average of $23,000/year, students who cannot get the additional summer extension must find other work, often disrupting their studies and taking them away from the academic environment some may prefer. During my undergraduate years I lived with a woman attending the University of Washington and she earned $22,000/year as a doctoral student researcher. That was 15 years ago. Another difficulty for students drawing an income from campus is healthcare. The student health insurance plan is unaffordable to use if one needs healthcare off campus. The deductible cost for services that cannot be handled by the on-campus clinic increased from $1,650 for the 2013/14 school year to $3,750 the following year, a 227% increase. Another concern was that campus administration is not informed of the rates until the insurance booklets arrive. If a graduate student does not have outside income and has medical conditions requiring off-campus medical care, they must resort to choosing what major costs can be done without. After rent and electricity these are commonly food and healthcare. While not agreeing with every aspect, the relationship between student loans and tuition costs is covered well by Matt Taibbi in the article “Ripping Off Young America: The College-Loan Scandal”.

While the healthcare situation has undergone changes that allow graduates assistants to qualify for Medicaid based on the GA compensation rate, the other large shift has been in student demographics. It is important to realize that as national unemployment numbers soared, college enrollment numbers did as well. Many of those first time and returning students were not simply taking an education vacation; they turned to education to make themselves better. Enrollment decisions based on financial aid could arguably be an influence for a portion of those students who would have not otherwise decided to expand their academic study. Financial aid could be used as a makeshift economic safety net.

These mentioned circumstances and others only strengthen the rationale for increasing student services on campus beyond that of financial aid, in a more direct and interactive way to help students move toward graduation. This is paramount for our institution as our funding formula is now based on graduation rates and not simply on enrollment numbers.

In November 2010, Dr. Casas of our History Department worked with others in administration, H.R., the Graduate Association, and a few mature students to hold the first food drive and distribution of 1,700 items. 41 staff and students picked up non-perishables. According to a short survey filled out by the majority of the clients, they have families: the food drive provided food for at least 137 individuals. The majority of individuals who availed themselves of the food bank were classified personnel with families, which suggested that some employees at UNLV were finding it difficult to provide sufficiently for their families.

Throughout spring and summer 2011, monthly food drives were maintained while efforts to secure a physical space took place. The start of the fall semester saw the opening of our first location. From the first pantry space until Jan 2014, food was donated in campus bins, picked up from events, or purchased in person with donated funds from grocery stores. Large events took place a few times a year and bins were emptied weekly, but the majority of food was shopped for every other week. Directly across the street from the campus is a two-story commercial building. Our first space was quite limited; around 30′ by 10′, with a similar sized room in back. The back held the cans that the front room could not hold and was used for storage and to restock the supply of cans. All non-canned food was put out. The president of the pantry during fall 2011 was in his final semester of his degree program. He maintained pantry hours with help from his girlfriend and me, the pantry’s first full time volunteer and second president. During winter 2012, the pantry re-located across the hallway into the community’s old Kinkos. Remember Kinkos? The space was enormous. It was also without a functioning HVAC system, overhead lighting, a waterproof roof, and had elevator access that reeked of used cooking oil and urine. After grabbing some oil lamps and moving the shelves between the falling ceiling tiles we got to work trying to fill the place up. A vast array of student orgs came together to fill pallets of food for us to distribute. We worked on setting up payroll deductions, our non-profit status with the help of a law school faculty member, and lobbying the undergraduate student council for some funding. The summer saw temperatures climb to around 104 inside the pantry. I sat outside most of those days in hopes of an occasional breeze to radiate my water and sweat soaked bandana draped around my neck. From what I read 106 was the breaking point at which I would have had to start throwing items away. We did eventually obtain 2 portable A/C units that brought it down to around 92, much better. On Sept 11th of that year the campus saw flooding due to poor infrastructure design both on and off campus. The pantry was on the second floor and escaped any loss beyond that of wet floors. Those on the first floor were entirely wipedout since they sat below street level. A half dozen drain pipes with finger sized grate-holes covering them were quickly blocked by various debris and tiny landscape rocks that make up a lot of our campus grounds.

During the winter of 2012 we moved again, this time onto campus. Although the pantry was not universally revered as a valued campus asset, consistent backing from the then president and strong support from the Provost and the office of academic space made this possible. The total area was smaller and broken up into 4 standard sized office spaces. While the amenities were luxurious in comparison, the separation came with its own issues related to client proximity and monitoring. Two are used as distribution rooms, one for storage, and the other as an office. Eventually the office came to be used for distribution as well. A monumental contribution was made through silent auction fundraising events at clubs on the strip put on by our hotel marketing students during the 2012 & 2013 summers. During 2013, an effort was made to clarify a non-discrimination policy of the local food bank. As we understood it, they would not partner with organizations that imposed association rules as to who they allowed to be clients. Since our pantry was only open to campus members we did not pursue a partnership with the bank early on. The latter end of the year saw progress on that front and by the start of the spring 2014 semester we were fully partnered. Since then we have been able to purchase a greater quantity of food with the resources we have. Our offerings have expanded to include various produce items and occasionally, boxes of hygiene items, saving many additional hundreds of dollars for ourclients. During summer 2014, University officials from around the country toured the campus and held discussions regarding our institution’s Tier 1 status efforts. Since, the pantry has been cast in a new light and reflects a positive component assisting the campus community. Also during that summer, I trained 2 undergraduate students to take my place. Since fall, they have done excellent work and the three of us have successfully lobbied for additional income streams to the pantry and the passage of the undergraduate emergency retention grant. We are currently in discussions to bring in refrigerators and/or freezers that will allow us to expand our offerings to bring our clients closer to meals made from whole foods. As a result of these efforts, from the pantry’s opening through summer 2014 the pantry has served over 1,900 clients who have in turn fed over 5,000. Our client make-up for the first 2 years held very steady at 2/3 staff and 1/3 students. But from fall 2013 to summer 2014 students have increased slightly to students being 38.3% and staff representing 61.7%. Since the partnership with the local food bank in January 2014 through August, we have placed 34 orders and distributed 22,224 lbs of food, costing $4,435. Anecdotal review of this school year’s client intake forms show that our mean weekly service rates may increase from about 33 to over 40.

Our distribution model from the start has been that of free choice, or first come first serve, and anonymity has been a primary concern. We do not check any form of association by our clients. As a result of our model, we have had client-lines from the early days. The lines vary from week to week but it appears that the mean number waiting has increased from around 5-10 to 15-20, with 80-90% of that day’s clients coming and waiting for us to open.

If anyone has any questions about the content of this story or anything else pantry related please let me know. I am specifically interested in hearing about distribution models and how to refine practices while maintaining equal fairness to all clients. I am also interested in discussing how to handle client complaints about other clients’ taking-behaviors under a free choice model. If anyone has managed to wrangle a graduate assistantship out of running the pantry I would like to know that as well. Please allow me some time to reply.

Joseph Nickelson

Originally published by Clare Cady June 2, 2015

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