Tag: Clare Cady

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 cufbanational@gmail.com

Originally published by Clare Cady May 12, 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 cufbanational@gmail.com

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


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


A pic of our web page to go on the web page…how meta of us

We get asked for all kinds of information: budgets, startup plans, contracts, check lists, MOUs, newsletters, event ideas…the list goes on and on and on. We love to be able to provide you with the ongoing 1:1 care that we could back when we started up, but our growth has been amazing and Nate and I just don’t have the time for everyone anymore. It’s a great problem to have in some ways – we will reach the 200 mark in campuses that have joined CUFBA this year!

So our new goal is this: get information, curate it, organize it, and share. Share broadly. Share widely. Share freely.

We will be starting to increase the items on the site that you can download and use as you serve students. What would be really helpful to us is to know what we should start with. Perhaps there are folks out there who want to know more about managing their storage so that items don’t expire. Perhaps it would be helpful for us to share budget templates, or sample MOUs with nonprofits, or intake paperwork. Our goal is to make that more easily available so that campuses can come to the site to get what they need, and if they have more challenging questions they can bring them to the group or the leadership. Sound good?

We need two things from you all:

1) Requests for where we should start. What do you want???

2) If you have items you think other campuses would like to use, please provide them for us to share.

We will be posting collections and tools by category, and once we know what would be best to start, we will work on that. If you have requests, or you want to give us items to share please email cufbanational@gmail.com

Originally published by Clare Cady March 17, 2015

Food Bank Newsletter Inspiration

Some of the CUFBA schools write newsletters that come out each month, or quarter, or semester. Newsletters are a great way to:

  • Share information about your work such as clients served, food distributed, volunteer hours, donations received, or other metrics.
  • Recognize your staff and/or volunteers.
  • Provide lists of food items or other supplies you need.
  • Offer other resources (beyond your services) to clients or community members.
  • Communicate updates such as changes in location, procedure, eligibility requirements, etc.
  • List distribution times and/or locations.
  • Help people learn how they can volunteer or donate.
  • Whatever else you can dream up.

Here is a great example of a pantry newsletter from Michigan State University.

Food Bank Newsletter 2014

Originally published by Clare Cady March 10, 2015

Stocking Foods For Startup Part 2: fresh and frozen

Some campuses have the ability to distribute fresh and frozen foods along with non-perishables. Most do not start with this, but as they grow and develop they are able to add fridges and freezers to their inventory. Here are some suggestions for foods that are good to stock when starting to distribute fresh and frozen foods.

Frozen protein: ground beef, ground turkey, chicken drumsticks.

Fresh protein: eggs, tofu

Frozen vegetables: peas and carrots, beans, peas

Fresh vegetables: potatoes, carrots, cabbage (good to start with things that keep a while)

Frozen fruit: blueberries, peaches, strawberries (these can be expensive, but are highly prized)

Fresh fruit: oranges, apples, juices

Frozen meals: pizzas, tv-style dinners, pastas

Fresh dairy/dairy alternatives: margarine, shelf-stable milk (if you can keep it cold it is more popular), almond/soy/rice milk, yogurt (which can also be frozen)

Other items: sauces (pesto, tomato)

Originally published by Clare Cady February 23, 2015

Stocking Foods for Startup

So you got it all lined up – space, personnel, and FUNDING!!!!

Some food pantries rely only on direct donations of food, and others purchase what they distribute either at cost, wholesale, or through a local food bank. A common question when one is poised looking at shelves to fill for that first distribution is “what do we buy? Here is a list of suggestions for those who are stocking non-perishables only.

This is a list of the most commonly used items we know of per food category. We recommend that you track what foods are most popular so you can stock accordingly. Also, many campus pantries have a mission that includes foods that are culturally, religiously, or medically significant for clients. It helps to ask clients to identify these foods the first time they sign in. You can use this list to inform your purchasing in the future.

Canned vegetables: corn, beans, peas, tomatoes (crushed, diced, sauce…all are great)

Canned fruit: peaches, pears, apple sauce

Canned soups: bring in a wide variety. The concentrates are good, but the ones that can just be opened and heated up are more popular. Be sure to get vegetarian options.

Boxed/packaged Meals: macaroni and cheese, hamburger helper and rice-a-roni style meals. We highly recommend avoiding Top Ramen unless requested by your students.

Grains: rice (white and brown), pastas, mashed potato flakes, oats, cereals, corn meal/masa. Have at least one gluten-free option.

Protein: peanut/almond butter, nuts, beans (canned and/or dried), lentils, tuna, canned chicken, spam, shelf-stable tofu. Be sure to have some vegetarian options.

Misc food items: cooking oil, spices, sauces (these are awesome to have, but can be hard to come by or expensive)

Other items: toilet paper, cleaning supplies (same as the misc items – they can be hard to get and/or expensive)


What other items do you think are good starter stock-ups?

Originally published by Clare Cady February 17, 2015

Capacity Building and Volunteers

So many of us rely on the amazing contributions of volunteers to run our campus food pantries. Whether we are volunteer-only, or have some paid staffing hours put to our work, it would be challenging to serve our campuses if people did not donate their time. Here are a few tips for recruiting and retaining amazing volunteers.

1) Engage in co-curricular partnerships. Are there classes being taught on your campus that touch on issues of poverty, hunger, and food insecurity? Reach out to the faculty who teach those courses to see if they could include service at your pantry as part of the curriculum.

2) Use volunteer recruitment as a form of outreach. Some students will not outright take a flier for your pantry in a public space because of the stigma. If you do most of your student outreach as a “we offer this service AND we are looking for volunteers” your outreach audience broadens to include those who don’t need your services but would volunteer. It also creates a safety net for students who want to take your information to use the service…they can do so looking like they are volunteering instead.

3) Do a specific, organized, and thorough volunteer training. If you train your volunteers they will be more effective in their work, and they will also get the message from you that what they are about to do really matters. It also weeds out folks who care less about what you are doing. Create a certificate for your volunteers stating they completed the training, and have them renew it annually so you can teach them about changes and check in with them on how they are doing.

4) Recognition is important. Thank your volunteers in as many ways as you can – verbally, in email communications, through social media, and through other things like volunteer of the month, a pizza party (if you have the money), or taking out ads in the campus paper. Be willing to write them letters of recommendation. It’s not necessary, but it feels really great for them, and for you because it’s fun to say great things about great people.

5) Have boundaries. You do not need to create new volunteer opportunities just because someone wants to volunteer. Be clear with people who come in what you need, and help them to be successful in doing it. If you have a volunteer who is not doing a good job it is OK to give them feedback and try to help them improve. If their presence is problematic it is OK to ask them to leave.

6) Create leadership opportunities for awesome volunteers. Have a “senior volunteer” position that helps to train new folks. Let them take on tasks that are more complex within your distributions. When there are projects that require independent action, ask these folks first if they want to take it on. This is a way of recognizing the expertise and skill of your volunteers, and it helps them to build their leadership skills and resumes.

7) Give them a space. This can be a hard one since so many of us are space-limited. BUT if you have the opportunity to have a desk or a room for volunteers it sends the message that they are important. This can be a permanent space, or something temporary during distributions. Booking a classroom for your distributions? Book the space next door so that volunteers can put their things down away from everyone, and they can step out and breathe for a moment without clients looking at them. This also allows you to have private space to talk with your volunteers as well.

8) Get a VISTA. If you have the ability to bring in an AmeriCorps VISTA to work with your program it can be an amazing capacity-building strategy. The cost can vary $7-12k, which is not insignificant. However for this you have a person who is volunteering with your pantry 40 hours per week for a year. I have seen VISTAs develop volunteer programs, write grants, manage pantry distributions, run fund raiser events, and many other things that can really boost the capacity of your pantry. Check out Campus Compact in your state to see if this is a good option for you.

Originally published by Clare Cady February 10, 2015

Working with Your Food Donors

Running a campus pantry means soliciting donations – lots, and lots, and lots of donations. Here are a few tips on how to best manage intake on the things folks want to give you.

Take everything: even if someone donates something to you that you cannot use, take it. Why? Because when you take a donation and you say “thank you,” the person who donates is more likely to give again in the future. Can’t use what they gave? Pass it along to another agency who can use it, or recycle it. It is very rare that someone will donate something that is completely unusable. Be the ones donors think of when they want to give.

Create clarity: in order to get the donations you CAN use, create a policy on donations that is made available to the public. It’s a good idea to have this on your website, and to also have it in PDF or Word format so you can email it to folks. Post it by your phone so staff can reference it when someone calls.

Make a wish list: often pantries will be contacted by groups who want to do some food raising for you. Have a list of items that your clients need the most, or what is wanted but hard to get. This can also include equipment like shelves, or refrigerators. Have this information posted publicly, and also be sure you and your staff/volunteers know it off the tops of their heads.

It IS ok to have boundaries: if a donor keeps giving you things that you cannot use (like expired food, or items you can’t give away), it is OK to let them know. Make sure they hear that you are grateful that they are donating, and follow up with a list of things you can use. Many times folks will change it up and give within your guidelines.

Ask: it is appropriate to ask for donations. Write letters, send links to your wishlist out through listservs, make posters, or host drives to collect items you need. The worst thing that will happen is that people will say no, and if you ask you are likely to get more than you were hoping for.

Originally published by Clare Cady January 20, 2015

Why Campus-Based Food Banks?

We get this question a lot: “why not direct students to resources off campus rather than doing it yourselves?”

This is a valid question, and one that I think demands consideration. One quick answer is this: campuses DO refer students to community agencies. It would be inefficient not to. That said, here are some reasons (some good and some problematic) that campuses might choose to have their own food bank rather than utilize off-campus resources only.

1) The campus may exist in a food desert. The reason that we were able to justify the Oregon State Food Pantry was that some graduate students were engaged in a analysis of the gaps in food safety net in our community. They found a big one around campus, which led to an investigation into whether or not it existed because there was no need, or if there was unmet need. We determined there was unmet need. This made campus an ideal location to fill that gap.

2) Some campuses want to provide additional services just for students. There are many campuses that have food banks for students only (and many that are open to the public). This allows the campus to direct resources to students, and to be more responsive to the specific needs on their campus.

3) Many students will not access off-campus resources. This can be a problematic reason, because in my opinion, many students will not use community resources is because of stereotypes and stigma they carry about people in the community who are in need. Because of this many students will not utilize resources because they do not feel safe doing so (even though they certainly would be).

4) Students are busy, busy people. Students experiencing food insecurity are often the busiest because they are taking classes AND working 20+ hours per week. A food bank on campus is really helpful in terms of access and time management.

5) International students may not use an off-campus pantry because of fear it might impact their visas. This is not true – receiving food assistance does not make a international student what the federal government calls a “public charge.” That said, many international students will seek assistance in safer places, and on-campus can feel much safer.

6) Having a food bank on campus can de-stigmatize poverty and normalize getting help. When it is public knowledge that a campus provides assistance to students in need, it can feel easier to take that assistance. It also can help to humanize people experiencing food insecurity other students.

7) Serving students can be a rallying point for the campus community. Whether it is a faculty food drive, Greek letter organization philanthropy, or an Empty Bowls event, communities are strengthened when members pitch in. This can have a positive impact on how students, faculty, and staff feel about their campus.

Originally published by Clare Cady January 13, 2015