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U.Va. Community Food Pantry hosts first Souper Bowl of Caring fundraiser

If reached, the $50,000 fundraising goal will cover one semester of operational costs for the pantry

<p>According to Madeline Casper, basic needs coordinator for the CFP and Student Health and Wellness employee, the annual number of visitors to the pantry has grown by over 100 percent each year since she began volunteering. &nbsp;</p>

According to Madeline Casper, basic needs coordinator for the CFP and Student Health and Wellness employee, the annual number of visitors to the pantry has grown by over 100 percent each year since she began volunteering.  

The University’s Community Food Pantry, which provides free food and hygiene items for students and faculty experiencing financial hardship, is hosting a Souper Bowl of Caring fundraiser to raise $50,000 for the pantry and help University students in need. If the goal is reached, the funds will cover the pantry’s operating costs for one semester. The campaign began Feb. 5 at 10 a.m. and will end Monday at 11 p.m. 

According to their website, the CFP is student-run and aims to alleviate the financial hardships of University students and staff, as well as advocate for a more accessible food system for all members of the University community. During the Fall 2023 semester, the CFP had over 6,500 visits, with a total of nearly 800 distinct visitors. 

Garreth Bartholomew, the pantry’s graduate assistant and graduate Batten student, said the Community Food Pantry does not document the names of people who access the pantry as part of a broader effort to bypass the stigma around food insecurity.

“We want to support students, no matter if they feel comfortable saying they need help,” Bartholomew said.

The Souper Bowl of Caring campaign is a national effort that has spanned over 30 years, inspiring individuals across the country to tackle hunger in their local communities during the time of the NFL Super Bowl football game. The CFP, which just joined the national campaign this year, aims to both raise money for their program and raise awareness for efforts across Grounds to quell food insecurity.

Each school at the University has its own pantry, and donors are also encouraged to volunteer in addition to donating funds. While the five satellite pantries of the CFP usually operate and fundraise independently, the Souper Bowl of Caring campaign is unique in that it will benefit all of the pantries. 

At the time of publishing, the fundraiser has raised $1,725 with a total of 28 donors. According to the fundraiser’s website, $5 alone can provide 65 oatmeal breakfasts or 48 tuna salad sandwiches. Though the organization has not yet reached its $50,000 goal, members of the pantry still consider the fundraiser a success.

“Every dollar is another dollar that we can help support students with, and staff and faculty that are experiencing food insecurity,” Bartholomew said.

Though this is the first year CFP is participating in the project, Bartholomew mentioned that the fundraiser goal was set high as the pantry has seen a tremendous amount of growth and operating costs have increased year over year. 

“We've just dramatically grown and so we are experiencing a tremendous amount of need,” Bartholomew said.

According to Madeline Casper, basic needs coordinator for the CFP and Student Health and Wellness employee, the annual number of visitors to the pantry has grown by over 100 percent each year since she began volunteering. 

Eleanor Steiner, third-year College student and volunteer coordinator for the CFP, said that food insecurity is a large problem for many college students in the United States.

“About 21% of students nationally are food insecure,” Steiner said. “At U.Va., 41.2% of students have expressed concern of having consistent access to food over all four years at the University.” 

Steiner said that volunteering at the pantry has helped her realize the prevalence of food insecurity and how much of an impact the pantry makes.

In addition to the fundraiser, the pantry has also hosted multiple events including a “Demystifying SNAP” event and a “Teaching Kitchen” culinary class. SNAP, short for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, provides food benefits for low income families. According to Casper, the events have been successful and seen a large turnout. The SNAP event will be posted on the University student affairs YouTube account, so it can be accessed as a continuous resource. 

Casper said she hopes that the increased number of visitors to the pantry and its events will help raise awareness for food insecurity and allow for more regular programming. 

“We're hoping that next year we can hit the ground running even sooner and even harder so that we can have more events and spread even more awareness about this issue,” Casper said.

Bartholomew also said that University students can work to address food insecurity issues by volunteering time and working with the pantry to raise awareness for food insecurity and the pantry itself. 

“I would encourage people to if they're able to give, that's great, but if they're also able to give time that's equally as important,” Bartholomew said. “We need as many people on board if we're going to be able to stop campus-based food insecurity.”

Anyone wishing to donate funds to the campaign can do so on GiveCampus, a website that provides fundraising services to educational institutions. Donations will be accepted until 11 p.m. Monday. 

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