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K-State Today

March 5, 2020

Kansas Health Foundation support key to Cats' Cupboard for K-State employees

Submitted by Sarah McGreer Hoyt

cats cupboard logo

Since it opened in fall 2017, Cats' Cupboard: The K-State Food Pantry has become a visible and well-established resource for helping students facing food insecurity. However, early on, pantry founder and supervisor Sarah Barrett saw an opportunity to serve another segment of the university population facing many of the same challenges: university employees.

With that in mind, Barrett and her staff applied for and received a $25,000 grant from the Kansas Health Foundation to combat food insecurity among K-State staff and faculty. On April 1, 2019, Cats' Cupboard began providing nonperishable food items to all employees. Through the end of the grant period on Dec. 13, 2019, the food pantry served 115 households. In total, staff and faculty members made more than 540 total visits.

"All members of the K-State community deserve the opportunity to bring their best selves when they step foot on campus each day — our students and our staff and faculty — so expanding pantry access just made sense," Barrett said. "Strict means testing and inaccessibility are barriers for many people in our community, but this grant has helped to ensure that we are furthering K-State's land-grant mission of 'improving the quality of life and standard of living of those we serve.'"

The Kansas Health Foundation works to build a culture in which every Kansan can make healthy choices related to where they live, work and play. Their grant funds to Cats' Cupboard allowed the pantry to purchase groceries that replaced everything that K-State employees selected off of the shelf. Those new purchases focused on healthy options, such as whole wheat pasta, fruit packed in fruit juice — rather than heavy syrup — and vegetables with no salt added.

In an anonymous survey distributed to employees who used the pantry at the end of the grant period, one visitor wrote, "Cats' Cupboard has been an immense help for me when I was unable to afford to buy groceries. Truly a needed service for staff as well as students."

Because of the popularity of the grant program, Cats' Cupboard will continue serving faculty and staff during regular hours of operation. At the same time, the pantry remains a popular campus resource for students, who have made more than 10,000 visits in less than three years.

Cats' Cupboard staff members will continue to seek funding to both serve K-State employees, and provide healthy options on the food pantry shelves. In fact, this winter they received a $500 Community Grant from the Manhattan Walmart that will be used to purchase whole grains, chicken and tuna packed in water, and low sugar and sodium canned fruits and vegetables.

Visit the Cats' Cupboard website for additional information and ways to donate, or follow Cats' Cupboard on social media.

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