Comet Cupboard Program Helps Students in Need
Dec. 12, 2013
Students Connie Cheng, Hae Song Lee and Nathan Castillo recently volunteered at Comet Cupboard. They filled bags with food for Thanksgiving.
Thanks to the Comet Cupboard, students at UT Dallas who are juggling academic and financial responsibilities don’t have to make sacrifices like skipping meals.
Comet Cupboard, a UT Dallas food pantry initiative organized last year, provides nonperishable food and personal care items to students in need. About 300 students use the cupboard each semester; three-quarters of the users are graduate students, according to recent surveys.
It’s a misconception that young adults who can attend college can afford to buy food, said program coordinator Hillary Campbell.
“We deal with students one-on-one a great deal. We were getting first-hand stories of personal situations that these students were in. There’s a lot more going on with people than we know, and there are needs that are not being met,” Campbell said.
Donations of food from students, faculty and staff keep the cupboard’s shelves stocked. Student and staff volunteers maintain the inventory, pick up donations from drop-off sites and run the cupboard.
“The emotional, physical and intellectual well-being of all students are key elements of our University mission.”
Any student who needs food can select up to four free items. Volunteers swipe students’ Comet Cards to track usage. Available food includes dry and canned beans; peanut butter; canned meats, soups and stews; canned fruit and vegetables; cereal, pasta and rice; baking mixes; boxed or powdered milk; and rice and soy milk.
Students who use the Comet Cupboard have expressed their gratitude anonymously in a recent survey.
“When I first got to UT Dallas, I had next to no money,” said one student who was job hunting while waiting for financial aid to come in, and who had exhausted funds on school supplies. “Comet Cupboard helped out so much because I was able to focus on my school work and finding a job because I didn't have to worry about feeding myself.”
Another student commented that the Comet Cupboard “really helped me get by” at the end of the month.
“I could get some canned goods that helped me get through until my meal-plan meals kicked in the following week or I got my paycheck,” the student said.
Dr. Andrew Blanchard, dean of the Office of Undergraduate Education, described the Comet Cupboard as “a much-needed service” on campus.
“The emotional, physical and intellectual well-being of all students are key elements of our University mission,” Blanchard said.
Student organizations have helped by donating and collecting food, holding fundraisers and promoting the Comet Cupboard. Among those who have participated are students on athletic teams, fraternities and sororities, and academic clubs, and staff and faculty in several of the University’s departments, offices and centers.
The Comet Cupboard (MC 1.604) is open from noon to 6 p.m. Monday and Wednesday; 2 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; and 3 to 6 p.m. Friday. For more information, contact the Office of Undergraduate Education at 972-883-6706.
Volunteers also are tapping neighborhood restaurants and businesses for in-kind gifts and financial contributions. Argo Data Source Corp. provided the first corporate donation to the cupboard last spring after staff learned about the program from UT Dallas students and alumni who worked there as interns and employees.
“It has come as no surprise that the UT Dallas community mobilized to make our first year of operation a success, and it is inspiring to see such a diverse group of University stakeholders continue to increase,” said Courtney Brecheen, assistant dean of the Office of Undergraduate Education.
Food donations are accepted from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. weekdays at the cupboard or from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays at the Office of Undergraduate Education, Founders Building (FO) 2.710.