The Cupboard, located in the Student Center between Copies Plus and The Last Chapter Pub, has been undergoing operation changes due to a shortage of high-demand supplies.
According to the information page on alumni.snhu.edu, “The Cupboard provides a reliable source of food and basic personal necessities for any SNHU student, staff, or faculty member who is in need, ensuring that everyone in our community can live, learn, work, teach, and thrive by meeting their basic needs.”
Kadie Dickson, Assistant Director for the Office of Student Involvement (OSI), oversees The Cupboard’s operations.
“We designed the community cupboard to be a space where people could always come with very few to almost no barriers. You have to request access and then so long as the Student Center was open, The Cupboard was open,” said Dickson.
However, there has been an increase in demand for supplies within The Cupboard, resulting in many shelves being left bare. Team members are looking to other food pantries and campuses, such as Families in Transition in Manchester, NH, for guidance to improve operations for The Cupboard.
“It’s a shame that anyone struggles with food insecurity, especially on a college campus. I think it’s great that we have something like The Cupboard to help alleviate those stresses. I also think it’s great that we’re taking a look at different dining solutions, as well, that will hopefully help, but I think we could be doing more for our students,” said Justin Vanasse, who works as an AmeriCorps VISTA on campus.
Prior to this semester, members of the SNHU community were able to enter The Cupboard freely. However, regulations were put in place for the time being to maintain stock levels. A staff attendant will be available to assist anyone that is looking to enter The Cupboard.
A 1-2 bag limit will also be in effect. Bags will be provided by the staff attendant, and personal belongings will be prohibited from being brought into The Cupboard. Limits on basic necessities will also be put in place.
There will also be a restriction to one visit per day. Guests are prohibited from opening and using the products.
“I think we’re moving in a more beneficial direction for everybody,” said Vanasse. “Before, I think [The Cupboard] was operating in a way that wasn’t sustainable for the capacity that we had, and that was apparent by the amount of complaints we were getting from students, staff, and faculty alike about the amount of food that was in the pantry and how quickly it was going.”
Student employees within the Student Center assist with the stocking process of The Cupboard.
“I am the most blessed to have such hardworking students that not only do this job because it’s their job, but I know that they are so very passionate about closing the gap on the need for our students,” said Dickson.
SNHU partnered with the New Hampshire Food Bank to provide The Cupboard with supplies. According to Dickson, The Cupboard has been receiving up to 1500 pounds of food per week.
“What I just love about Food Bank is that we have ethnic meal, international student options that cater specifically to that audience, which makes it feel just a little less tone deaf,” said Dickson.
The Cupboard also receives a year’s worth of dental products from Northeast Delta Dental. However, supplies did not last for the intended time.
Supplies are not only purchased through the Food Bank but also received through funding and donations. Faculty and staff have the opportunity to donate “a portion of their biweekly paychecks, which pretty much entirely carries the budget I have to work with for the space,” according to Dickson.
“Something that has been really devasting me about this experience is that I have noticed, because people know how misused that space has been this semester, my donations have been significantly plummeting,” said Dickson.
In September, The Cupboard received 425 pounds of donations from over ten donors. For January, donations dropped down to around 25 pounds, with only two donors providing goods.
“I do think it’s a reflection of our community digesting that this space is being misused and that their efforts could be more intentionally spent elsewhere…I believe that really reinforces in Spring boards on why we need to change the infrastructure of The Cupboard as a whole,” said Dickson.
While The Cupboard is welcome to all members of the SNHU community, it is especially geared toward the international student population.
“Our international student populations can’t benefit from government-sanctioned food pantries…because it impacts their immigration status, so that is another reason why we have this fierce responsibility to ensure that we can sustain these goods more intentionally because we know that we have an international student population that only grows larger,” said Dickson. She also added that approximately 400 international students have enrolled for the spring semester.
Dickson reflected on how the pandemic has affected the use of The Cupboard. She discussed how, during the pandemic, SNHU community members took more than the permitted amount, often leaving the shelves bare.
“It was a huge reflection of terror. I feel that on Tuesdays when we load the space, students see it being loaded in and they have that fear. ‘What if I don’t secure this right now? What is the next week going to look like for me? Or perhaps it’s something along the lines of ‘I know I have a doctor’s appointment next Tuesday, so if I don’t get into this space right here, right now, I could face up to two weeks without having anything,” said Dickson.
While The Cupboard has been facing lower stock, its occupancy levels were also affected. The Cupboard is typically able to allow for five or less people; however, there will now only be one person permitted at a time to enter the space.
“We went into the space to find…sixteen students in The Cupboard at the same time. Not only were they feverishly putting things into their bags in very intense quantities, but there was a lot of consumption happening within the space,” said Dickson. “We don’t want people to feel like they can’t utilize this space. Keeping that privacy is something that is really important to us.”
Vanasse discussed how there is a team actively looking for a new location on campus to house The Cupboard. One potential option for The Cupboard’s relocation is the unused space in the new SETA building.
“We’re looking at new spaces, and we’re hoping to move the pantry,” said Vanasse. “The pantry space right now, we view it as temporary, and we’d like to move it to a different space that [is] larger, it looks nicer, to help eliminate that stigma of entering a closet to get free food.”
The Cupboard is open Monday through Friday from 9am to 1pm, and 3pm to 7pm. However, hours of operation are subject to change. An online appointment system being constructed will be available to community members upon its completion.
Vanasse also discussed the longevity of the operations for The Cupboard. He said, “I think it’s a short-term solution until we determine that it’s effective.”
The concierge desk in the Student Center is available to answer questions and accept item donations to The Cupboard. They do not accept monetary donations. Inquiries can also be sent to The Cupboard email at email@example.com, Kadie Dickson at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Justin Vanasse at email@example.com.
“Our goal is to be able to challenge our students, to time manage more intentionally, but also provide multiple offerings of ways to support themselves,” said Dickson. “As a community, we can be the change. We can just do a better job of listening in of what we need and when we need it.”