It’s been an historic week for us at CUFBA as we welcomed our 399th and 400th members to our network. Our 400th, Klemi’s Kitchen at Georgia Tech, were officially welcomed on Wednesday night by our Associate Director Sonal Chauhan. Incidentally we welcomed another amazing team member this week – Grace Evelyn Smith-Tyge joined us on the same day. We are so excited for you and your family Nate!
Reaching 400 members and the closing of 2016 has me reflecting on the nature of our work, its success, and the future of CUFBA. Not only did we reach this all-time high in membership, but published our first research in the report Hunger on Campus in partnership with the SGRC, Student PIRGS, and NCSAHH. Special thanks to Associate Director Brandon Mathews for his great work on shepherding this project in collaboration with James Dubick and myself. We can be extremely proud of this years’ accomplishments, which have received ongoing press coverage and attention – which we see less as win for CUFBA, and more for students whose needs are closer to being met.
It is bittersweet, this year of accomplishments, mostly because were students not at such risk of food insecurity there would be no need for organizations such as CUFBA and our partners (Swipe Out Hunger, The Campus Kitchens Project, the Wisconsin HOPE Lab, Share Meals, Food Recovery Network, and many more). I think we would all love to see a world where our work is no longer needed, where writing books like Paying the Price or the creation of new orgs like the FAST Fund are not even necessary because students are cared for and supported in the ways they require. Sadly they are, so we keep creating, growing, serving, and truth-telling until students are no longer food insecure. As we look into the future of the US we worry that things may get worse before they get better.
Speaking of the future, we at CUFBA are looking into 2017 with an ambitious eye. Earlier this year we made some adjustments to our mission and strategic plan that allow us some wiggle room we have not had. We have forged a deeper partnership with NASPA to bring light to these issues and possible solutions. Be on the lookout for the second Closing the Achievement Gap conference, in which I will be playing a formative role. We are continuing to ask critical questions that require inquiry. We are hoping to be a part of new research in the new year. Finally, we are expanding our work to include other interventions beyond that of the campus pantry. This will be minimal compared to our current work, but we have seen an increasing need from our members to brainstorm longer term, proactive solutions to alleviating student food insecurity. We realize that while meeting the immediate needs of students in crisis is a critical start to supporting them, stopping at that is the equivalent (as I have been quoted many times saying) putting a band-aid on a bullet wound. We need not only to meet students’ immediate needs, but to help them gain the stability that leads to persistence and completion. Through partnerships and innovation we hope that this will be a place where we can support and/or offer solutions.
I want to say again a special thank you to the CUFBA team, Co-Founder and Co-Director Nate Smith-Tyge, Associate Director Brandon Mathews, and Associate Director Sonal Chauhan. It is a tremendous privilege to work with these folks, and without them CUFBA would not be what it is today. I do not know if you are aware, but we are an all-volunteer organization…so these folks do this in their spare time. I think that is a testament to their commitment and the power of their contributions. Finally thanks to our members. We provide support yes, but it is our members who do the heavy lifting, the strategic planning, the grant writing, the donor relating – all the things that result in students getting what they need and deserve.
All the best to you all.