Stocking Foods For Startup Part 2: fresh and frozen

Some campuses have the ability to distribute fresh and frozen foods along with non-perishables. Most do not start with this, but as they grow and develop they are able to add fridges and freezers to their inventory. Here are some suggestions for foods that are good to stock when starting to distribute fresh and frozen foods.

Frozen protein: ground beef, ground turkey, chicken drumsticks.

Fresh protein: eggs, tofu

Frozen vegetables: peas and carrots, beans, peas

Fresh vegetables: potatoes, carrots, cabbage (good to start with things that keep a while)

Frozen fruit: blueberries, peaches, strawberries (these can be expensive, but are highly prized)

Fresh fruit: oranges, apples, juices

Frozen meals: pizzas, tv-style dinners, pastas

Fresh dairy/dairy alternatives: margarine, shelf-stable milk (if you can keep it cold it is more popular), almond/soy/rice milk, yogurt (which can also be frozen)

Other items: sauces (pesto, tomato)

Stocking Foods for Startup

So you got it all lined up – space, personnel, and FUNDING!!!!

Some food pantries rely only on direct donations of food, and others purchase what they distribute either at cost, wholesale, or through a local food bank. A common question when one is poised looking at shelves to fill for that first distribution is “what do we buy? Here is a list of suggestions for those who are stocking non-perishables only.

This is a list of the most commonly used items we know of per food category. We recommend that you track what foods are most popular so you can stock accordingly. Also, many campus pantries have a mission that includes foods that are culturally, religiously, or medically significant for clients. It helps to ask clients to identify these foods the first time they sign in. You can use this list to inform your purchasing in the future.

Canned vegetables: corn, beans, peas, tomatoes (crushed, diced, sauce…all are great)

Canned fruit: peaches, pears, apple sauce

Canned soups: bring in a wide variety. The concentrates are good, but the ones that can just be opened and heated up are more popular. Be sure to get vegetarian options.

Boxed/packaged Meals: macaroni and cheese, hamburger helper and rice-a-roni style meals. We highly recommend avoiding Top Ramen unless requested by your students.

Grains: rice (white and brown), pastas, mashed potato flakes, oats, cereals, corn meal/masa. Have at least one gluten-free option.

Protein: peanut/almond butter, nuts, beans (canned and/or dried), lentils, tuna, canned chicken, spam, shelf-stable tofu. Be sure to have some vegetarian options.

Misc food items: cooking oil, spices, sauces (these are awesome to have, but can be hard to come by or expensive)

Other items: toilet paper, cleaning supplies (same as the misc items – they can be hard to get and/or expensive)


What other items do you think are good starter stock-ups?

Norwalk Community College Launches Campus Pantry

Check out this great article about the newest pantry on the block – congrats Norwalk CC!

Want us to share a story about your accomplishments? Email us at

Capacity Building and Volunteers

So many of us rely on the amazing contributions of volunteers to run our campus food pantries. Whether we are volunteer-only, or have some paid staffing hours put to our work, it would be challenging to serve our campuses if people did not donate their time. Here are a few tips for recruiting and retaining amazing volunteers.

1) Engage in co-curricular partnerships. Are there classes being taught on your campus that touch on issues of poverty, hunger, and food insecurity? Reach out to the faculty who teach those courses to see if they could include service at your pantry as part of the curriculum.

2) Use volunteer recruitment as a form of outreach. Some students will not outright take a flier for your pantry in a public space because of the stigma. If you do most of your student outreach as a “we offer this service AND we are looking for volunteers” your outreach audience broadens to include those who don’t need your services but would volunteer. It also creates a safety net for students who want to take your information to use the service…they can do so looking like they are volunteering instead.

3) Do a specific, organized, and thorough volunteer training. If you train your volunteers they will be more effective in their work, and they will also get the message from you that what they are about to do really matters. It also weeds out folks who care less about what you are doing. Create a certificate for your volunteers stating they completed the training, and have them renew it annually so you can teach them about changes and check in with them on how they are doing.

4) Recognition is important. Thank your volunteers in as many ways as you can – verbally, in email communications, through social media, and through other things like volunteer of the month, a pizza party (if you have the money), or taking out ads in the campus paper. Be willing to write them letters of recommendation. It’s not necessary, but it feels really great for them, and for you because it’s fun to say great things about great people.

5) Have boundaries. You do not need to create new volunteer opportunities just because someone wants to volunteer. Be clear with people who come in what you need, and help them to be successful in doing it. If you have a volunteer who is not doing a good job it is OK to give them feedback and try to help them improve. If their presence is problematic it is OK to ask them to leave.

6) Create leadership opportunities for awesome volunteers. Have a “senior volunteer” position that helps to train new folks. Let them take on tasks that are more complex within your distributions. When there are projects that require independent action, ask these folks first if they want to take it on. This is a way of recognizing the expertise and skill of your volunteers, and it helps them to build their leadership skills and resumes.

7) Give them a space. This can be a hard one since so many of us are space-limited. BUT if you have the opportunity to have a desk or a room for volunteers it sends the message that they are important. This can be a permanent space, or something temporary during distributions. Booking a classroom for your distributions? Book the space next door so that volunteers can put their things down away from everyone, and they can step out and breathe for a moment without clients looking at them. This also allows you to have private space to talk with your volunteers as well.

8) Get a VISTA. If you have the ability to bring in an AmeriCorps VISTA to work with your program it can be an amazing capacity-building strategy. The cost can vary $7-12k, which is not insignificant. However for this you have a person who is volunteering with your pantry 40 hours per week for a year. I have seen VISTAs develop volunteer programs, write grants, manage pantry distributions, run fund raiser events, and many other things that can really boost the capacity of your pantry. Check out Campus Compact in your state to see if this is a good option for you.


Origins: Stony Brook University

The most common question we get from campuses looking to start up a pantry is “how did YOU get started?” We will be posting the ‘Origins’ series to share the tales of our member schools in their work supporting food insecure students.

How One Pantry Got Its Start

By Casey McGloin, MPH, Co-founder, Stony Brook University Food Pantry

As with other public universities, the food insecurity issue on Stony Brook’s campus was discovered in small doses by the faculty, staff, and students who were compassionate enough to notice the struggles of their colleagues and peers. A faculty member brought granola bars into class and marveled at how quickly they disappeared. A staff member received a call from a student who was wondering what to do when her meal plan ran out. A student asked a friend to use the friend’s meal card so that he could eat dinner that night. A staff member noticed that a co-worker was struggling financially. Members of the Stony Brook community  were having food insecurity interactions. A small series of conversations began, and they grew into larger series of conversations.

In 2011, an NBC story with Brian Williams highlighted efforts by some college campuses to establish food pantries in order to address food insecurity among students. In 2012, a Chronicle of Higher Education article did the same. These two stories, combined with the conversations in which we took part, led two people on opposite sides of our campus, myself and my co-founder Beth McGuire-Fredericks, to explore the idea of creating a food pantry at Stony Brook. We separately discussed the issue and the potential solution with groups of students and administrators, found out about one another, and combined efforts. I include this detail because it is evidence of the grassroots nature of campus food pantry establishment.

Over and over again, the groups of students and administrators with whom we met confirmed the need for services to address food insecurity on campus. We took a second look at the commonly accepted phenomenon of the “poor college student.” Since few data are available on the prevalence of food insecurity among college students, we combined comments from these meetings with statistics about our Pell-eligible student population  and data from an informal survey we distributed during a campus event to justifiy creating a campus food pantry at Stony Brook. We formed a committee of students and staff and set to work to figure out how the pantry should operate. We contacted the directors of other campus pantries, consulted with a nutritionist to determine the best foods to keep on our shelves (as we wanted to create a healthy food pantry), talked to administrators about space, planned food drives, and finalized many other details.

The most challenging tasks were finding a space for the pantry, and coming to terms with the fact that not everything would turn out as we hoped. By speaking with various administrators, we eventually found an underutilized space on campus we were permitted to re-purpose to house the pantry. As for things not turning out as planned, after our pantry’s opening day we realized our carefully planned intake system was inefficient and redesigned most of it over the course of a week to better suit the reality of our particular food-insecure population. We had planned to open a campus bank account before opening day, giving us the ability to accept tax-deductible monetary donations; however, we didn’t achieve that milestone until a year and a half later. For our first year and a half, we relied on a combination of food drives, grocery store gift card donations, and a small budget from a larger charitable donation campaign on campus to stock our shelves with healthy foods. Since we opened our doors in September 2013, we’ve continuously adapted to challenges as they arose.

The SBU Food Pantry has provided almost 2,000 bags of food to our pantry guests to date. At the start of our second spring semester in operation, we are still learning. So far our second year has had many similarities and many differences from our first year, which leads me to believe we will always be learning. Despite the youth of our establishment, we’ve been contacted for advice by other universities/colleges exploring the campus pantry possibility for themselves, and we’ve been contacted by a multitude of news organizations to report on the rapid growth of campus food pantries. The conversation is growing.

Want to share your campus’ ‘Origins’ story? Email us at – put “Origins: for Clare” in the subject line.

ECC Students Launch Food Pantry for Hungry Peers

Check out this awesome article about member school Elgin Community College – way to go ECC!




Want to have your school’s media included on the website? Send it our way and we will post it! OR College and University Food Bank Alliance on Facebook

Conference Meet-Ups

Who’s attending a conference in 2015?!?!?

While it can be great to share through email, blogging, and google hangouts, wouldn’t it be nice to connect in real life?

If you are going to be at conference this year, let’s get something organized! All it takes is 2 member schools to have a great conversation. Grab a couch in a hotel lobby, get a coffee before morning sessions, or have a “tweet-up” and have a meal. ACPA, NASPA, USSA, Dalton Institute, ACUHO-I, ACUI…the possibilities are endless. Email us at to let us know where you will be…we can start sharing that information. CUFBA was founded on the concept that the work we do can be isolating, so connection is vital to our well-being and development.

NASPA Meetup: Clare will be attending the NASPA Annual Conference in New Orleans, and wants to connect! A coffee talk perhaps? Sub-group join-up at the Socioeconomic and Class Issues in Higher Education KC social? Let’s make plans!

Working with Your Food Donors

Running a campus pantry means soliciting donations – lots, and lots, and lots of donations. Here are a few tips on how to best manage intake on the things folks want to give you.

Take everything: even if someone donates something to you that you cannot use, take it. Why? Because when you take a donation and you say “thank you,” the person who donates is more likely to give again in the future. Can’t use what they gave? Pass it along to another agency who can use it, or recycle it. It is very rare that someone will donate something that is completely unusable. Be the ones donors think of when they want to give.

Create clarity: in order to get the donations you CAN use, create a policy on donations that is made available to the public. It’s a good idea to have this on your website, and to also have it in PDF or Word format so you can email it to folks. Post it by your phone so staff can reference it when someone calls.

Make a wish list: often pantries will be contacted by groups who want to do some food raising for you. Have a list of items that your clients need the most, or what is wanted but hard to get. This can also include equipment like shelves, or refrigerators. Have this information posted publicly, and also be sure you and your staff/volunteers know it off the tops of their heads.

It IS ok to have boundaries: if a donor keeps giving you things that you cannot use (like expired food, or items you can’t give away), it is OK to let them know. Make sure they hear that you are grateful that they are donating, and follow up with a list of things you can use. Many times folks will change it up and give within your guidelines.

Ask: it is appropriate to ask for donations. Write letters, send links to your wishlist out through listservs, make posters, or host drives to collect items you need. The worst thing that will happen is that people will say no, and if you ask you are likely to get more than you were hoping for.


Why Campus-Based Food Banks?

We get this question a lot: “why not direct students to resources off campus rather than doing it yourselves?”

This is a valid question, and one that I think demands consideration. One quick answer is this: campuses DO refer students to community agencies. It would be inefficient not to. That said, here are some reasons (some good and some problematic) that campuses might choose to have their own food bank rather than utilize off-campus resources only.

1) The campus may exist in a food desert. The reason that we were able to justify the Oregon State Food Pantry was that some graduate students were engaged in a analysis of the gaps in food safety net in our community. They found a big one around campus, which led to an investigation into whether or not it existed because there was no need, or if there was unmet need. We determined there was unmet need. This made campus an ideal location to fill that gap.

2) Some campuses want to provide additional services just for students. There are many campuses that have food banks for students only (and many that are open to the public). This allows the campus to direct resources to students, and to be more responsive to the specific needs on their campus.

3) Many students will not access off-campus resources. This can be a problematic reason, because in my opinion, many students will not use community resources is because of stereotypes and stigma they carry about people in the community who are in need. Because of this many students will not utilize resources because they do not feel safe doing so (even though they certainly would be).

4) Students are busy, busy people. Students experiencing food insecurity are often the busiest because they are taking classes AND working 20+ hours per week. A food bank on campus is really helpful in terms of access and time management.

5) International students may not use an off-campus pantry because of fear it might impact their visas. This is not true – receiving food assistance does not make a international student what the federal government calls a “public charge.” That said, many international students will seek assistance in safer places, and on-campus can feel much safer.

6) Having a food bank on campus can de-stigmatize poverty and normalize getting help. When it is public knowledge that a campus provides assistance to students in need, it can feel easier to take that assistance. It also can help to humanize people experiencing food insecurity other students.

7) Serving students can be a rallying point for the campus community. Whether it is a faculty food drive, Greek letter organization philanthropy, or an Empty Bowls event, communities are strengthened when members pitch in. This can have a positive impact on how students, faculty, and staff feel about their campus.


Job Opportunity in Hunger Relief

Interest in continuing to serve communities experiencing hunger after you graduate? Check out this job posting from Feeding America: Child Hunger Corps Member.*3E227FF52BFCCF1B&__SVRTRID=2A1E8096-B88C-421B-86EF-C8FDD6B1C0A9