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

10 Ways To Fund Your Campus Food Bank

One of the questions we get most often is “where do I get funding for this?” Here are a few ways we have seen that are effective. Please know that not all campuses are alike, and not all campus food banks are either – we realize that not all of these options will work for everyone.

1)      If you have not reached out to your campus’ Foundation or Fund Raising organization, this can be immensely helpful. This facilitates exposure with major donors, can lead to a nonprofit sponsorship to gain access to grants, and could create a direct line for employees to donate to your food bank through payroll deduction.

2)      Empty Bowls is a relatively easy fundraiser to host, and many campuses partner with their art departments  to put it on.

3)      If your school has a Greek system, know that many Greek letter organizations are required to do a certain amount of philanthropy. On some campuses they have gone as far as adopting the campus food bank for an annual event, or as the “pet philanthropy” of a particular house or organization.

4)      Partnerships with local nonprofits can sometimes be beneficial when writing grants or doing events. Pooling “numbers served” within a community can demonstrate efficiency as well as bolsters your work so that grantors might pay greater attention.

5)      While it can seem cliché, a good old fashioned bake sale can raise hundreds of dollars – particularly if you ask for people to donate and then pick from the baked goods…when people set their own prices they often give more.

6)      Connect with the dining areas on your campus. Are there coffee shops that can put out change boxes? Here at OSU we bring in $300+ dollars by having 5 change boxes at our coffee locations on campus.

7)      Use a crowd-funding platform like Kickstarter or GoFundMe. Some schools have these set up through their Foundations. HERE is a link to one such platform that funds projects for students.

8)      Look at grants through organizations like FEMA or the United Way. There are often funds in these places for food assistance programs.

9)      Work with your athletics department – have a team sponsor you with a food or fund drive at a game or over a longer period of time.

10)   Does your campus do an annual charitable fund drive? These usually happen around the winter break. If so, see if you can get your food bank listed as a potential charity.


Email to have it included in another post.

Food Insecurity as a Student Issue

Check out this recent article by CUFBA Co-Founder, Clare Cady, in the Journal of College and Character

Want to have your work shared on our site? Email:

CUFBA on the Radio


Listen to Clare Cady, Co-Founder of the College and University Food Bank Alliance, as she talks with Elisa Tang from WRHU-FM in New York 5/9/14

Student Food Security Scholarship

We are excited to see so many gradaute students writing papers and doing projects focused on student food insecurity. Here’s a poster presentation by Drew Desilet at Oregon State University.

Interested in having your work shared through CUFBA? Email

Check out the Community Board!


Massachusetts Campus Food Banks on the Rise

Check out this article in the Boston Globe featuring CUFBA Member School UMASS Boston


Stony Brook Pantry Opens

imageThe Stony Brook Food pantry, which was founded by students for students, opened Wednesday, September 18. Many students that attend Stony Brook university are not eligible for state or federal food assistance, that’s where the food bank comes into play. The organizers at Stony Brook University looked to member schools of CUFBA (College and University Food Bank Association) as a model for their pantry.

Many students across the country do not qualify for food assistance programs, which is where student food banks step in. Casey McGloin, a project staff assistant with the School of Health Technology and Management says “If [students] come and tell us that they need food, we’ll give it to them.”