Colonel's Cupboard Addresses Hunger Issues among Students

ribbon-cutting photo for Cupboard

Most college students are worried about their next big test.

For some, unfortunately, an even bigger worry is the source of their next meal.

Studies suggest that one in six Eastern Kentucky University students have likely experienced “food insecurities” at some point in their lives. Now, with the launch of Colonel’s Cupboard, the University is taking steps to ensure that none of its students or their dependents ever go hungry and to increase the likelihood of their academic success.

“We want our students to be able to focus on their studies and their future rather than where they’re going to get their next meal,” said Will Keaton, assistant director of Student Life-Community Service.

Since its “soft” opening in September, the Cupboard, stocked with donations from several campus groups and organizations as well as individuals, has assisted at least one student each week. Officials expect that number to grow in the weeks and months to come.

“The Cupboard provides short-term assistance while helping students find long-term solutions,” Keaton said. In addition to a “food box” that includes 6-10 well-balanced, non-perishable meals, the Cupboard provides money management workshops and connects students with campus employment resources as well as community social service agencies.

In its first few months, the Cupboard has enjoyed tremendous support from the campus community, with much of its stock coming from various food drives. Food and donations have poured in from fraternities and sororities, other student organizations, Colonel sports teams and the Dance Team, among other benefactors.

Faculty and staff can refer students to the service. To submit referrals, request assistance or make donations, visit communityservice.eku.edu/colonels-cupboard. The website also contains a suggested donation list. For more information, those interested may also contact Keaton at 622-3855 or e-mail food.pantry@eku.edu.

EKU President Michael Benson, speaking at a ceremony marking its public launch, said the Colonel’s Cupboard “is part and parcel of our overall student success program. We’re trying to be at the forefront in addressing the holistic needs of our students.”

Only 121 other colleges and universities nationwide “have a resource like this,” he said.

Also speaking at the ceremony were Executive Vice President for Student Success and University Counsel Dr. Laurie Carter and Associate Vice President for Campus Life Dr. Mike Reagle.

Keaton said that “the process by which most federal services operate is not designed for college students. It can be an incredibly challenging and long process for college students to connect with social services.”

Indeed, it was a letter a few years ago from an EKU alum who once found himself in need that led to series of conversations and meetings. The letter and food pantry concept were initially brought to the Academic Affairs Work Group, a group charged with identifying academic barriers that might inhibit student success. When the topic later came before the Eastern Advising and Retention Network, several employees identified hunger as an obstacle to students’ progress. On several occasions, students had been referred to community organizations.

EKU officials and students began to research possible options for EKU, and the Colonel’s Cupboard began to take shape.

One of the academic advisers heavily involved from the beginning was Renee Russell, now an adviser in EKU’s College of Justice & Safety.

“Academic advisers are excellent points of contact for students, should they need assistance with food,” she said. “Advisers already have established a rapport with their students and are often the first to hear about what struggles a student has that are interfering with academic work.

“I am very proud that the Colonel’s Cupboard is coming to fruition and will serve a critical mission – to help eliminate the very real distraction of hunger and help students succeed academically. The Colonel’s Cupboard was created by its own, for its own. Alumni, students, faculty and staff have all worked on the project. My hope is that they will continue to support the pantry by donating or volunteering, and referring students they know are in need of discreet assistance.”

Published on November 17, 2014

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