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Carolina Cupboard Addresses Food Insecurity for Students

Carolina Cupboard is a student-run initiative that provides food at no cost to students. The program has distributed more than 3,500 food items to more than 300 students. Now in its fifth year, the student-run initiative has expanded to also distributing personal hygiene items.

In a random sample of UNC-Chapel Hill undergraduates surveyed in October 2020, approximately 20%, or one in five, indicated they had experienced food insecurity within the last month. The percentages of students who identified as Black/African American or American Indian/Alaska Native indicating food insecurity were significantly higher (31.4% and 50%). A similar pattern was found in comparing indicators of food insecurity between students identifying as Straight/Heterosexual and students identifying as Bisexual, Gay, or Lesbian (15.8% and 30.7%).

Two additional studies have examined basic needs insecurity on our campus within the last few years. In 2019, Soldavini, Berner, and Da Silva reported 25% of undergraduates and 18% of graduate students indicating food insecurity within the last 12 months. Their analysis also found disparities when comparing black and brown students' experiences with those of their white counterparts.

“How can a student excel in their studies if they are worried about where their next meal will come from?” said Tarah Burnette, who oversees the program. “This question is the foundation of why this work is important to us and why I am so excited that Carolina Cupboard is in existence. I see all kinds of students walk through the doors of the pantry, and one constant is that they are all very thankful that this service is offered on campus,” said one grateful recipient. “You are all doing a great service to the students of this school.”

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