UNC's Carolina Cupboard competed with N.C. State University's Feed the Pack in the first Pantry Bowl this fall, collecting monetary donations for the food pantries.
Along with other food pantries at North Carolina universities, Carolina Cupboard and Feed the Pack are part of the Campus Pantry Collaborative, which works to confront food insecurity on college campuses.
The competition ran from Nov. 19 to Nov. 26. As it closed, Carolina Cupboard received 702 gifts of monetary donations, narrowly outcompeting Feed the Pack with 674 gifts, as shown on the Pantry Bowl website. The pantries collectively gathered $92,561.96.
“With this funding, we hope that the students that need our help get our help and that we have the sustainable resources in our pantry," UNC junior Kayla Brown, vice president of Carolina Cupboard, said. "I’m still overwhelmed with how much we raised."
Both Carolina Cupboard and Feed the Pack plan to use donations to buy products that they may receive less frequently from regular food drive donations, AmeriCorps VISTA of Feed the Pack Maddy Smith said.
Carolina Cupboard currently relies primarily on non-perishable food donations, with occasional unsolicited monetary donations, Brown said. Monetary donations accumulated from the Pantry Bowl will help Carolina Cupboard expand its resources to include more fresh produce, hot meals and cooking supplies, she said.
“By spreading awareness about food insecurity through the Pantry Bowl, it gave people the chance to donate out of their kind hearts," Brown said. "Because there's a lot of people in the community that genuinely care about the students here so this is their way of showing appreciation."
Smith said Feed the Pack has accepted monetary donations since 2020, when it experienced a surge in support during the pandemic and shifted from a student club to part of the University's 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations.
“Because the demand grew so much during this time, our campus community really stepped up to make sure that those needs didn't go unmet,” Smith said.
Feed the Pack received approximately $100,000 in donations in 2020, allowing them to establish their current budget, Smith said. However, they have not sustained the $100,000 budget.
“As the world has transitioned into whatever phase of the pandemic you'd like to call this, the spotlight on food insecurity has fallen,” Smith said. “That's why we're so grateful for the Pantry Bowl for helping us sustain and spread that awareness about food insecurity on campus.”
Alice Ammerman, Mildred Kaufman distinguished professor in the Department of Nutrition in the Gillings School of Global Public Health and director of the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, said she believes the monetary donations the Pantry Bowl gathered will allow each school’s food pantries more control over the food they provide.
“It seems like a good fundraising strategy and, by bringing in money verses just food donations, they have the option to buy healthier options,” Ammerman said.
In facing challenges caused by to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as limited cafeteria service, fear of group dining and isolation due to the virus, the rate of food insecurity has increased within the general population, as well on college campuses, according to Ammerman. The effects of food insecurity on college students can range from exacerbating mental health issues to difficulty focusing on classwork, Ammerman said.
The Pantry Bowl was more than just about competing, Brown said.
“What wins is really that people are able to get resources, and realize this is an actual thing on campus,” she said.
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