By Alex Wilson, September 10, 2020
Staff and volunteers at the University of Central Missouri Campus Cupboard work out of the facility on the lower level of the Student Recreation and Wellness Center, and earlier in the spring moved distribution of food and other items temporarily to the main floor to help students and university employees in need.
WARRENSBURG, MO – Since its inception in late 2013, the University of Central Missouri Campus Cupboard has successfully helped students, faculty and staff with nutritional and other basic supply needs. The importance of such efforts today continues to grow among the challenges of the pandemic.
The Campus Cupboard was created by the Office of Student Activities, the Department of Communication Disorders and Social Work, and the Department of Nutrition and Kinesiology, with assistance from an Opportunity Grant received from the UCM Alumni Foundation.
The cupboard accepts donations year-round and is a certified 501(c)(3) charity organization and a certified member of the Harvesters community food network. The facility is stocked with non-perishable food items, toiletries, and other supplies, and occasionally offers fresh meat and produce to its many university patrons.
While the university temporarily moved to all online courses and employee work-from-home operations, beginning in late March 2020 to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the cupboard remained open throughout the spring and into the summer to serve the campus community. Beth Rutt, director of Student Activities and coordinator of Campus Cupboard, said that while the cupboard’s operating hours changed, it was still available for those who needed it.
“Because of COVID, in March, all of the food service here on campus stopped. For our international students, because of the type of visa they have, their employment has to be on campus only. When we closed down our catering operations and things of that nature, that meant that those students did not have jobs any longer,” Rutt said. “Financially, they got hit very hard.
She added, “Since we were able to get more food than we normally would because Harvesters made it more available to us, we were able to give students more than 10 items a week. Most of the packaging that we had going out probably added up to about $65 worth of groceries a week that they were able to take. We were seeing anywhere between about 89 to 130 people a day.”
In making adjustments due to COVID-19, the cupboard temporarily moved to the lounge area on the ground floor of the SRWC. The extra space provided a more efficient grocery store-style layout and made it easier for students to comply with social distancing guidelines.
This fall, as a safety measure, individuals who visit the cupboard are required to line up outside the facility, standing six feet apart. While they are no longer allowed to enter the Campus Cupboard for their added safety, they will be checked in and then be given an assortment of prepackaged food items.
Additionally, a list of frequently requested items also will be presented on a large board from which Campus Cupboard visitors can make selections.
The cupboard is operated by Rutt and her staff and accepts donations from local businesses and individuals. It also benefits from and appreciates volunteer support and the contributions of goods or funds.
“Anyone is welcome to participate. It really does take a village to make this whole operation function.” Rutt said, “Our community has been very generous.”
She noted that approximately $7,000 in donations this year have come from community members to help with the purchase of food and other items that are distributed by the Campus Cupboard. Members of the Warrensburg community have been “very supportive of the community food pantry, but also supportive of the community we have here on campus,” she said. “They have helped us a great deal, that's helped us a lot.”
According to Rutt, the Campus Cupboard also promotes a stigma-free environment and does not discriminate. Those who may not be comfortable receiving goods are encouraged to take advantage of its offerings. For those who may wish to use the Campus Cupboard but feel uneasy about seeking assistance, Rutt said, she would “like to encourage them and hope they understand there are very few people who go through life that don't need a helping hand once in a while. We don't want someone’s pride to be the biggest problem they are fighting, we want them to understand they are welcome to come in and we want to make sure we are able to provide that service for them.”
The Campus Cupboard is open from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday and up to 10 items per week are available for anyone with a valid UCM ID. Those wanting to volunteer can contact Rutt through email at email@example.com or phone at 660-543-4381.
If there is someone in need who cannot access the Campus Cupboard during normal hours of operation, Rutt urges them to let her and her staff know. Arrangements can be made to provide assistance. Rutt also encourages those who know someone in need to refer them to the Campus Cupboard for supplies.
To visit the Campus Cupboard in person, go to the lower level of the SRWC. While walking west in the building, turn left at the locker rooms and left at the end of the hall. It is located at the first door on the left.