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Gazette Premium Content UCCS opens food pantry to assist struggling students

By Debbie Kelley Published: March 24, 2014

College students are hungry. And some don't have enough food to fill their bellies.

After paying for tuition, rent, gas, books, computers, phones and other expenses, there's often not much left over.

That's the situation for Heather, a junior at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs who asked that her last name not be used.

A problem with getting paid after a medical discharge from the military and reduced hours at her temp job have left her cash poor.

When UCCS opened a food pantry for students a few weeks ago, Heather's brother, also a student, told her since she was having problems making ends meet, she should check it out.

Last Thursday, Heather picked up cereal, pasta, dried mashed potatoes, applesauce and other staples.

"Most of my money has been going toward fuel," she said. "With the economy and my pay from the military being screwed up, this really helps. It's awesome."

A student-driven initiative - which started as an anthropology class project studying how grassroots organizations evolve - has borne fruit in the form of Clyde's Cupboard.

"Looking at the whole person and seeing the needs and how you can solve them is a burgeoning sub-section of anthropology," said Daniel Jaramillo, a senior anthropology major and one of four UCCS students who spearheaded the pantry.

Clyde's Cupboard is open in the University Center every Wednesday and Thursday.

Students don't have to prove need, just show identification, and then once a week can select eight items from protein, breakfast, vegetable and other nutritious groupings.

"We didn't want there to be a stigma for students to get food," Jaramillo said.

Of the 17 students who used the pantry in the first week, peanut butter, granola bars and fruit cups were favorites, he said.

Students researched the need and how to start such an operation by polling faculty, staff and students, and visiting other food pantries, including one at Pikes Peak Community College.

The venture has become a community-wide effort, said Amanda Koback, program manager for the Office of the Dean of Students. Campus donations are funding the project so far. A total of $1,500 helped stock the shelves initially, with donations from the career center, the student life office and Koback's office.

Food drives that normally have benefited other community organizations now will help the campus pantry, Jaramillo said.

Getting the buy-in from faculty, staff and administration was important to ensure the pantry continues after the founders graduate, he said. Students will run it, though, as a way of giving back to their classmates.

"The timing seemed right," said Bev Kratzer, director of the UCCS career center. "I see a lot of students, and sometimes the need comes out as we're talking about any struggles they might have."

Food pantries are becoming more popular at college campuses across the nation to help students deal with rising education costs, according to the College and University Food Bank Alliance, which has 50 member food banks on campuses.

Pikes Peak Community College opened a food pantry in 2007 at its main Centennial Campus and another in 2009 at the Downtown Studio Campus.

Dawn Souza, director of student life, was the fitness center coordinator at the time.

"Students were always asking if I had any food, or they were saying they had not eaten because either they had no money, or there was no food in their house," she said.

The PPCC Food Pantry initially was located in an empty office in the fitness center after Souza got approval to start it. Usage ballooned from serving 120 students a month to today's numbers: 1,514 students a month at the Centennial Campus and 739 a month at the downtown location, she said.

Student government funding and donations support the pantry, which, like the UCCS food bank, is open two days a week and limits student participation to once a week.

"We all know that students of all ages perform better in school if they have eaten," Souza said.

UCCS students in charge of Clyde's Cupboard also are planning to request funding from student government for next school year.

"I think it's going to be something solid. It really shows we're a community," Jaramillo said.

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