Published: Sept. 22, 2021

A student’s access to food can be impacted by their job, expenses, social network and financial resources. Food insecurity can lead to a lower GPA, poor mental health and a limited social life. And the pandemic has highlighted struggles within our community and made basic needs services more crucial than ever.

With the implementation of the Feed the Stampede food assistance program over the past year, CU Boulder has been designated a Hunger Free Campus by the Colorado Department of Higher Education (CDHE). The Hunger Free Campus Checklist is a statewide initiative to address disparities in food insecurity on college campuses.

Achieving this designation

The Hunger Free Campus Checklist was created with specific criteria to create inclusive, student-focused programs that enhance existing campus resources. It encourages colleges and universities to promote success beyond the classroom by providing all students with resources and basic needs, including food. 

CU Boulder is the fifth school in the state and the first CU campus to receive this designation.

“We are proud to have been designated by the CDHE as a hunger free campus, and we are grateful to the support of our partners,” said Hannah Wilks, director of the Volunteer Resource Center (VRC). “This does not mean that our work is done, but it is a significant step in recognizing the issues that students face and highlights our ongoing efforts to support the basic needs of our students.”

This designation is a statewide recognition of the commitment the institution has in supporting the health and well-being of their students. It signifies the collective effort across students, staff, faculty and community members to raise awareness and assistance for food insecurity.

Addressing student food insecurity

Feed the Stampede has worked to ensure students experiencing any level of food insecurity have the necessary knowledge, resources and access to enough food to meet their needs. According to the Hope Center’s #RealCollege survey, 38% of students at four-year institutions face food insecurity.

“I struggle affording food on a weekly basis as I could not get a job in the service industry in Boulder due to COVID, the reoccurring lockdowns and the lack of need for restaurant workers at this time. Buff Pantry greatly helped me feed myself the last semester at CU,” said a CU Boulder student.

In partnership with Community Food Share, more than 218,000 pounds of food has been distributed to the CU Boulder community through the Feed the Stampede assistance program.

Buff Pantry

The Buff Pantry opened on Sept. 3, 2020 and is an on-campus resource for all CU Boulder students. Students are welcome to visit the Buff Pantry one time per week to receive approximately 20-30 pounds of food per visit. The Buff Pantry provides shelf stable products, fresh produce and personal care items at no cost to students. 

Throughout the 2020-2021 academic year, the Buff Pantry distributed 41,409 pounds of food to visitors. Through a partnership with the University Memorial Center and with support from the Environmental Center Joint Board, the Buff Panty has expanded their space and equipment and will soon offer more fresh produce, refrigerated and frozen foods.

Mobile food pantries

To further meet community needs, Feed the Stampede also hosted 21 mobile food pantries at various locations around campus. Since April 2020, mobile food pantries have had 6,325 visits. 208,613 pounds of food were distributed, and 236 volunteers gave 826 hours of time to these events.

Swipe It Forward program 

In partnership with Campus Dining Services, Swipe It Forward allows CU Boulder students with a meal plan to donate one meal swipe per semester to a fellow student. Due to the pandemic, Swipe It Forward was on pause for the 2020-2021 academic year. Feed the Stampede will relaunch Swipe It Forward this semester, and students can donate meal swipes Oct. 4-6. Feed the Stampede will work with the Office of Financial Aid to identify students that are most in need and invite them to apply to receive meal swipes.

Partnerships around SNAP enrollment

Feed the Stampede partnered with the Office of Financial Aid and Community Food Share to provide enrollment assistance to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Targeted outreach was made to students who may qualify for SNAP, and SNAP information and resources are available on the VRC website. 

In addition to these programs, Feed the Stampede has made efforts to increase campus community awareness around food insecurity and improve services through educational events, data collecting and reporting.

Committing to student support and success

Food security and mental health services are essential for students attending Colorado institutions of higher education. 

“We’re here to help our students succeed, both in and out of the classroom. In order for our students to succeed, their basic needs have to be met,” said JB Banks, associate vice chancellor for student affairs and dean of students. “I’m grateful for the relationships we have made across campus and the Boulder community to provide food assistance programs, and proud of the work that’s been done to support our students—especially during a time when things have often been tough and uncertain.”