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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Carleton Cupboard combats food insecurity over breaks

<wn in the winding underbelly of lower Sayles, inconspicuous room number 20 will soon fulfil a new purpose. Starting this upcoming winter break, Sayles 20 will become Carleton’s new food cupboard containing free non-perishable items available for student access over breaks when dining halls are closed.

The Carleton Cupboard aims to reduce food insecurity among Carleton students, an issue that is becoming more prevalent as more low-income students are attending Carleton while tuition is simultaneously increasing.

Carleton has some catching up to do in regards to increasing student access to campus over breaks. In a March 2018 New York Times op-ed titled “It’s Hard to Be Hungry on Spring Break” by Anthony Abraham, Carleton was noted for charging students an extra fee to stay on campus over breaks. It currently costs Carleton students $10 per day to live on campus over winter break and $15 per day over spring break. These fees can rack up easily, especially for low-income students. The Carleton Cupboard aims to make staying on campus during breaks more affordable by allowing students who cannot afford to travel home to “shop” for free food on campus.

The food cupboard has been a long time in the making, facilitated through a partnership between the Dean of Students Office and the Student Activities Office. According to Dean Livingston, this program was first recommended in a 2016 report on “the challenges and opportunities for first generation and low income students at Carleton” published by Associate Dean of Students Joe Baggot and psychology professor Julia Strand.

Samara Kroeger ’21 noticed the “lack of resources available on campus” herself when she stayed at Carleton last spring break. Kroeger is now the Program Assistant for the Carleton Cupboard and she is “working with SAO to do research, create promotional materials, do campus and community outreach and plan events in order to get the space ready for this upcoming winter break.”

Lee Clark, the director of Student Activities, has also been a part of the project since its initiation. He leads an advisory group on the food cupboard who met with “several student organizations, local non-profits, the CCCE, Bon Appetit, as well as peer institutions with successful food shelves” during the planning stage of the project. For more support and guidance, Carleton also joined the College University Food Bank Alliance (CUFBA), a professional organization whose mission is “providing support, training and resources to campus-based food banks/pantries and other food insecurity initiatives that primarily serve students.”

After several years of planning, the food cupboard is ready to launch this upcoming winter break. Much thought has been put into ensuring usage of the food cupboard remains anonymous. According to Lee Clark, in order for a student to access the food cupboard, they must fill out a “one-time access request form” that will only be seen by “professional staff members.” Students can then access the cupboard using their OneCard. In order to ensure complete confidentiality, only one student can be in the cupboard at a time. A red, motion-activated light above the door to the cupboard in the hallway will illuminate if someone is inside, telling others to come back later. Reusable shopping bags will be provided for students to pick out the food items they desire.

Renovations to the cupboard’s home in Sayles 20 are funded by the Dean of Students Office and the Treasurer Fred Rogers’ office. The Dean of Students Office will then provide continuous funding for the cupboard. Additionally, students can contribute to the food cupboard; in the next few weeks there will be a donation table in Sayles for those wishing to give food to the cupboard. Lee Clark explained that the cupboard will be stocked with non-perishable items including “canned vegetables, boxed pasta, cereal and baking ingredients such as flour, sugar, and spices.” Clark and the advisory board are open to changes in the food products offered depending on student demand and plan to modify the project “throughout the year as needed.” Right now there is no plan to expand the cupboard to include non-perishable items, however there is the potential for such a change in the future if the mission were to be altered and new partnerships formed with current student organizations.

Hopefully, the food cupboard will help reduce food insecurity among students who cannot afford to return home during Carleton’s breaks. Kroeger hopes that the Carleton Cupboard will help initiate conversations on food insecurity and “reduce stigma surrounding food shelves and other assistance programs as well as provide for the students who need it the most.”

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