The Cabrini Cupboard, located on the third floor of Founder’s Hall, is looking to expand. After safety precautions stalled its use, the food pantry now hopes and reintroduce itself in a post-COVID-19 campus environment.
The Cupboard is a service created in 2016 by a student named Kristina Pilat. Pilat worked with then-Wolfington Center Director Tom Southard and Assistant to the Vice President of Student Life and Dean of Students Carmel-Jo Madonna to start the project. The Cupboard project was funded as part of the Pierce Fellows program, which provides stipends to students to create a new program or project centered around hunger or food insecurity.
“At the outset, it provided shelf-stable food to any students with some kind of demonstrated food insecurity,” said Dr. Raymond Ward, the current director of the Wolfington Center, “it kind of devolved over time, but more recently, Guilherme Lopes, the director of Campus Ministry, was able to take over directorship of the pantry, and really advocated for opening the doors to anyone with any kind of demonstrated financial need.”
Under Madonna’s supervision, the Cupboard expanded to include hygiene products, and at one point ran a program that provided a SEPTA pass to students who had trouble commuting to campus. Ward said, “There’s an initiative underway to get people signed up for SNAP and WIC. We know we have students who are eligible, and we want them to be able to take advantage of it.”
Campus Ministry made the announcement via email on Sept. 13, 2022, that the Cabrini Cupboard would be moving from the Wolfington Center to their department. The transition was facilitated by Rosemary Gehrlein, who took over the Cupboard after Madonna retired.
Looking to the future
Before the pandemic, the Cupboard offered a program called Cabrini Swipes Out Hunger. It involves students being able to donate their unused meal swipes to students who may need them. “That’s one program we’re coming back to and looking to expand,” Ward said, “another one is the Are You Eating That? program, which again, was going before COVID, and has been reinvigorated. That’s recovering leftover food from the dining hall, and usually providing that to either students on campus, local food banks, or soup kitchens.”
In addition to shelf-stable foods and hygiene products, the Cupboard has expanded to include fresh fruit and vegetables. Martha’s Choice Marketplace, a pantry run by Catholic Social Services, has partnered with the Cupboard to provide a portion of their normal distribution.
“We get a bunch of canned food from them, but we also get frozen meat, dairy, and fruits and vegetables that are fresh. Those are all in there now,” Ward said.
In terms of goals for the future, Ward said “our two big ones to start off are one, just raising awareness that it exists. What we found was that with COVID-19, a lot of people weren’t on campus, they were virtual. The residential population is moving back up, and with that, we want to reintroduce common knowledge about the pantry.”
Sabrina Thompson, a Campus Ministry graduate assistant, said that “Our first-priority goal is getting more students to come to the Cupboard, and come frequently. We’re planning on having more events.”
A recent event held by the Cupboard was the Crockpot Cook-Off which featured faculty. “We made Crockpot meals using ingredients that are frequently in the Cupboard,” Thompson said.
The Cupboard is looking to increase its presence on campus. Thompson said, “Conversations between students help, especially if students are coming to the Wolfington Center just to hang out, and see that the Cupboard is right there, and the kinds of foods we have.”
The Cabrini Cupboard is located in the Wolfington Center on the third floor of Founder’s Hall. It’s open Monday to Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. However, Campus Ministry plans to expand its hours in the future.