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On-campus student food pantry sees surge during COVID-19 pandemic

Creighton Cupboard bagsCreighton University’s on-campus food pantry is overcoming the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic to serve more students than ever before.

The number of students who have signed up to use the Creighton Cupboard, which provides free meals for graduate, undergraduate and professional students who identify as food insecure, has doubled since the University began adopting measures to limit the spread of the virus, says Becky Nickerson, director of the Creighton Intercultural Center.

“There’s no income requirement. If you have a need for us, we’re going to help you,” Nickerson says. “A lot of our new students are professional students and undergraduate upperclassmen who are still living in the Omaha area and are experiencing new financial difficulties because of the pandemic.”

The pantry has twice distributed items since the University transitioned to online classes for the remainder of the semester. On March 20, the Cupboard distributed 471 pounds of food. On April 3, it distributed 695 pounds, Nickerson says.

With new health guidelines imposed to limit the spread of the virus, the pantry has had to adjust its normal operations. Nickerson and Curtis Taylor, assistant director of multicultural organizations and programming, have been designated mission critical staff and will continue to operate the Creighton Cupboard despite the campus closure, effective April 7.

Previously, students would visit the pantry, which is housed in lower McGloin Hall, for an on-site shopping experience. Now, in an effort to minimize contact, students enrolled in the service are being asked to submit an online order form on which they can schedule a time to pick up their bagged food out of Brandeis Hall.

The pantry distributes orders every other Friday. The next distribution is scheduled for April 17. The pantry aims to provide seven meals per week for every student enrolled in the service, plus seven meals for each dependent.

Students can select from meats (including chicken breasts, turkey and ham), fresh fruits, milk, grains and canned goods and more.

While the pantry does typically accept donations of food and other items, Nickerson is encouraging those interested in supporting the Creighton Cupboard to make a financial gift instead, due to the campus closure and increased health concerns. To make a financial gift online, click here.

The pantry, supported by the Division of Student Life, Creighton Dining and Creighton Students Union, first opened in January 2019. Part of its mission, Nickerson says, is to decrease the stigma around food insecurity and engage in education and outreach among the student population.

About 36% of students at four-year colleges nationwide identify as being food insecure, according to a study from the University of Wisconsin. The Creighton Cupboard is one of more than 650 on-campus food pantries in the U.S.

“The more that we normalize and socialize about food insecurity, the less stigma it carries,” Nickerson says. “We operate year-round, and these new circumstances won’t stop us. We’ll still be here for students. This is how we are staying cura.”

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