New campus pantry provides free groceries for students
The Cougar Cupboard is a new on-campus food pantry that aims to address food insecurity among college students by providing up to 30 pounds of free groceries a week.
The Cougar Cupboard is in partnership with the Houston Food Bank as the second pantry on campus — first being PEEPS Pantry — to provide free, accessible food to any enrolled student on-campus. Cougar Cupboard acts as one of 14 “Food For Change” Markets located in the greater Houston area.
The pantry is located at the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center near the Smoothie King.
“Students are really thanking us and saying that this is great to have on campus,” said Assistant Director of Health Education Reuben Parrish. “Cougars are really grateful to have us here.”
Staff members at the Campus and Recreation Wellness Center have enrolled over 250 students in the two weeks they have been open, Parrish said.
The pantry provides perishables and non-perishables to suffice basic nutrition such as fruits, vegetables, dairy, meats and essential toiletry items. Students are allowed to take up to eight pounds of fruits and vegetables, seven pounds of protein and seven pounds of dry goods a week.
“We have already had a few parents come in with their students as well as a few couples,” Parrish said. “I would say it’s making a small dent in a growing concern among college campuses.”
Any student enrolled can earn access to the Cougar Cupboard by attending a one-time enrollment session with staff at the rec and completing an application for the Houston Food Bank’s Food Scholarship Program online.
Enrollment sessions are ongoing and provided weekly on Tuesdays at 2 p.m. and Wednesdays at 11 a.m. The Cougar Cupboard does not operate on Thursdays.
Once completing these enrollment steps found on the Cougar Cupboard website, students will attain access to the Cougar Cupboard pantry and 14 other Food For Change markets found in the local Houston area.
The Wellness Center is discreet with student shoppers and will not share any information on who utilizes the pantry on campus, Parrish said.
“If you are someone who is not sure where your next meal is going to come from, then I would definitely think about checking out the market,” Parrish said. “It would be great to take the orientation and have us as a back-up because we’re only here to help.”