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K-State Today

June 6, 2023

Kansas Health Foundation provides grant for Cats' Cupboard

Submitted by Shawn Funk

Food security among college students is a significant problem. Studies indicate that anywhere from 35%-40% of college students face food insecurity nationally, which challenges the health and well-being of students.

Kansas State University is no exception to this problem. According to the American College Health Association National College Health Assessment completed in February 2022 at K-State, 39.9% identified as food insecure, meaning they did not have consistent, reliable access to enough food to live a healthy, active lifestyle.

Cats' Cupboard: The K-State Food Pantry received a grant from the Kansas Health Foundation in August 2021 to provide semimonthly cooking classes and healthy snack access to increase healthy food knowledge, selection and preparation and address food insecurity for multicultural students. The primary partners working in collaboration with Cats' Cupboard on this plan were the students, staff and faculty in the Morris Family Multicultural Student Center.

The project identified strategies to bring greater equity to the multicultural students at K-State by increasing access to healthy foods within an inclusive space as well as promoting healthy decision-making when selecting and preparing foods within that same space. The effort presented interventions to help students access and prepare healthy foods that may reduce the risk of chronic diseases and increased risk for obesity, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and other health problems.

There were more than 70 participants in the eight cooking events that were held between February 2022 and April 2023 at the Multicultural Student Center. These hands-on events allowed participants to be actively involved in meal preparation. Cats' Cupboard staff facilitated collaboration among student participants and culinary experts prior to each event to reintroduce culturally relevant meals adjusted to consider healthy alternatives that might be heart healthy, low sodium or cost friendly.

Student participants indicated that they learned new things and walked away more conscious about what they were consuming and how much. The following is feedback from student participants: 

  • "My sodium intake is rather high, but I can opt for other seasonings such as lemon juice or low sodium substitutes."  
  • "I learned that eating unwashed produce is better than not eating it at all!" 
  • "I learned that healthier options are easy to substitute and often unnoticeable." 
  • "I didn't know that we had a dietitian that students could have as a resource! I thought it was only for athletes." 

Grant funds also increased access to healthy snacks and quick meals by providing a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low-sodium foods for students to access at the Cats' Cupboard Refuel Station in the Multicultural Student Center. 

Cats' Cupboard is grateful for the opportunity to have worked with the Multicultural Student Center, the other collaborating partners and the Kansas Health Foundation to facilitate this experience that supports personal health and well-being for multicultural students at Kansas State University. Special thanks to the following key collaborators for contributing their time, talent and passion toward making each event fun and engaging:

  • Allan Ortiz, chef, K-State Housing and Dining.
  • Dianna Schalles, registered dietitian, Lafene Health Center.
  • Marcos Mendez, clinical marriage and family therapist, Lafene CAPS.
  • Fanny, Lisa and East Fang, Mama Fang's Asian Market.
  • Kevin Santos-Flores, director of Diversity and Multicultural Student Affairs.