Cougar Cupboard, the on-campus food resource center serving students facing food insecurity, is closing its Wellness Center location with plans to reopen in the University Lofts in spring 2024.
“We are hopeful that when we reopen for in-person shopping, it will be at our new location inside University Lofts,” said Jessica Haney, the program manager for Cougar Cupboard. “We are hoping to open this new space around the beginning of the spring 2024 semester, but it will depend on many factors.
Haney said that the move to University Lofts will help Cougar Cupboard better serve the community.
“Our new location will allow us to accept more people into the space at one time, thereby decreasing wait times and increasing accessibility,” Haney said. “It will also allow us to store nearly twice as much food as we can now, providing more support to students and their families.”
The Wellness Center location is open only on Fridays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and its last day of operation was Friday, June 30.
While Haney and her team prepare for the tentative reopening of Cougar Cupboard at University Lofts, students can get their groceries from Cougar Cupboard 2, located in EDUC 128 Farish Hall, and is a partnership between Cougar Cupboard and PEEPS Pantry.
“It’s definitely a joint effort,” Haney said. “Cougar Cupboard 2 is managed by Laura Lee, the College of Education’s Student Success Coordinator, and I will be helping staff CC2 for expanded operation hours during the summer and fall.”
Haney said students can schedule appointments to pick up groceries at CC2 via Navigate.
“We do have certain days we are planning to have the pantry staffed and ready to accept appointments, and we will continue expanding those hours once our student staff returns in the fall,” Haney said. “I would advise that students who want to use CC2 (right now) see what hours are currently available in Navigate and go based on that.”
In addition to CC2, students will also have the option of scheduling appointments to receive Friday distributions at the Student Center South’s circle drive.
“The Friday distributions will also be a huge source of food for many students,” Haney said. “So we are not relying only on CC2.”
Compared to the relatively small and limited stock of the CC2 location at Farish Hall, which does not carry frozen foods or produce, Haney said that the Friday distributions will offer students a variety of food options.
“Our partners at the Houston Food Bank have informed us that the type of distribution we will be receiving from them includes frozen and refrigerated items,” Haney said. “There will be a unit on-site that can store these foods safely until they go out to people. Ultimately, the stock will depend on what the Houston Food Bank has available at the time, but there should be a good variety.”
Moreover, for students who can commute to off-campus food banks, Haney sent out an email attachment that included a list of local food pantries.
“We also wanted to give students other options in case they are able to use off-campus resources,” Haney said. “Most of the food pantries on our resource list have weekend hours, which will hopefully be more accessible for most students. Riverside UMC, in particular, is open two Saturdays each month and is very close to campus.”
Despite Cougar Cupboard’s temporary closure, Haney is continuing to serve the campus community by providing food and other resources to those who need it.
“In the three and a half years that we have been open, our growth has been steadily increasing, and we now serve more students than ever, averaging 800 visits per week during a regular semester,” Haney said. “We will be keeping our community updated through our email list, Instagram, website and more. We cannot wait to serve everyone in our bigger and better location.”