Even with the COVID-19 pandemic, food insecurity continues to be a growing topic at Western Technical College.
A report released earlier this summer by the college’s Equity, Inclusion and Community Engagement department shows use of Western’s on-campus food pantry, the Cavalier Cupboard, rose dramatically during the 2019-2020 academic year, which wrapped up in June.
The annual report showed the total number served roughly doubled from the previous year, with 2,128 served in 2019-2020, compared with 1,053 the previous year. In total, 246 households were served through the year.
Despite the campus transitioning to alternative delivery formats in March because of COVID-19, the Cavalier Cupboard continues to help students. Eighty-eight food packages were distributed during the closure from March 17-May 5 alone.
During select hours throughout the week, a student is still able to receive a food package through the program.
A student drives to the entrance of Western’s Student Success Center, calls a number and a Western staff member brings out a food package. The student remains in the vehicle.
“Although we had a food pantry for the past six years, this year we made it even easier for students to access our services,” said Kari Reyburn, director of Equity, Inclusion and Community Engagement, who oversees the Cavalier Cupboard.
Last summer, the Cavalier Cupboard’s location shifted from the second floor of Western’s Integrated Technology Center to the second floor of the newly remodeled Student Success Center, inside Western’s Learning Commons.
When the campus is open, students are able to use their student ID to access the cupboard. The Cupboard contains non-perishable food items and other necessities, including toiletries and baby items for families.
Since 2018, Western has worked on infusing poverty-informed practice into the college’s strategic plan. The foundations of poverty-informed practice are simple; meet the basic needs of each student, create a sense of belonging and accelerate the process at every opportunity to move toward stability.
Removing barriers, such as making the Cupboard more accessible and easier to fine, was critical.
“We don’t believe the need among our students has changed much over six years,” Reyburn says. “But our increased usage of the Cupboard came from our intentional efforts to serve our students better.”
Preparations for the fall term are underway, and the Cavalier Cupboard staff are confident they will continue to meet the needs of the students, even as the college partially reopens this September.
To learn more about the Cavalier Cupboard, visit www.westerntc.edu/food-pantry.
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