Representatives from the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and its Wisconsin chapter visited UW-Green Bay’s Campus Cupboard & Clothes Closet on its Green Bay campus on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2022, to present the largest gift ever to the food and basic needs pantry.
Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.7-million member union representing teachers, educators, school staff and health care professionals, toured the space and heard from four students who shared their story of need.
During her visit, Weingarten offered to raise AFT-Wisconsin’s $5,000 gift to the student-run organization. With pen in hand, and a smile on her face, Campus Cupboard employee Maria Lopez Larucci wrote in the new total gift amount of $7,500 on the oversize presentation check. AFT-Wisconsin also provided 1,500 hygiene kits for students in need.
“Over the last few years, students, faculty and staff at campuses across the country have dealt with incredibly difficult circumstances — emotionally, academically and financially,” Weingarten said. “The Campus Cupboard & Clothes Closet is a lifeline for so many members of the Green Bay community, and this donation helps ensure that folks in this community can access the basics they need to live, so instead of worrying about where their next meal is going to come from or if they have clean clothes to wear to school the following day, they can focus on their coursework, their families and their own mental health.”
JD Kulis, co-chair of the Campus Cupboard and Lopez Larucci shared that many students take only what they need to get by and often share with roommates or their children and families at home. The impact, Kulis explained, is far reaching.
“We ask students to take only what they need, up to one bag a month, and what happens a lot is that one student will get pasta and another student will get spaghetti sauce, and then they will cook together to make the food spread farther,” said Kulis, a senior majoring in Public Administration with a public nonprofit management emphasis.
“What a lot of people don’t know is that the Campus Cupboard receives $650 a year in SEG fees, and that doesn’t even cover the cost of food for one month.” (Segregated Fees (SEG) are charged, in addition to tuition and other instructional fees, for student services, activities, programs and facilities that support the mission of UW-Green Bay.)
Campus Cupboard’s Green Bay location has seen an increase from 250 students during the last two years to nearly 400 students a month this year using the pantry’s services, which are available at the Green Bay, Marinette, Manitowoc, and Sheboygan campuses. The support not only is critical for individual students, but also their families, including children and even grandchildren. Stacie Christian, Assistant Vice Chancellor of Inclusive Excellence, explained that financial hardships from the Covid-19 pandemic are ongoing for many students and their families. A spike in the cost of food, especially meat, eggs and bread, has not only created a burden for students, but also caused the Campus Cupboard to operate in a deficit, with the UW-Green Bay Foundation filling the gap.
UW-Green Bay employees recently collected 19 large boxes of items for the Campus Cupboards during an all-campus drive. These donations, combined with the student SEG fees, donations from student group food drives and financial donations from individuals, organizations and businesses fund the Campus Cupboards. AFT and AFT-Wisconsin’s contribution will sustain the pantry locations at the current usage levels through February of next year, Christian said.
“The Campus Cupboard provides support to students all year round, not just when school is in session. And we see heavy use in the spring semester as students start running low on personal funds,” Christian said. “If the current rate of use continues, it is expected that 450 to 500 students a month will be using the Campus Cupboard during the spring next year.”
Jon Shelton, Associate Professor of Democracy and Justice Studies and AFT-Wisconsin Vice President for Higher Education, helped make the connection between students’ needs at UW-Green Bay and AFT’s support.
“Our union cares deeply about our students’ living conditions because we know it’s that much harder to focus on learning when you’re distracted by an affordability crisis,” said Shelton, who is also president of UWGB-United, the faculty and staff union at UW-Green Bay. “We hope this donation makes a big difference for them.”
Coats, hats and gloves are needed as the cold weather season begins this fall on campus. To contribute clothing, personal items or food, contact Stacie Christian at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gift of money can be made by check to:
UW-Green Bay Foundation (write Campus Cupboard Fund in memo line)
2420 Nicolet Drive
Green Bay, WI 54311
Donations can be conveniently made online, via credit card (3% fee incurred by Foundation) or ACH withdrawal (bank routing number needed, no fees): https://secure.qgiv.com/for/uowgb/restriction/Campus+Cupboard+++All+Locations