Jack’s Cupboard sparks change on campus


Miranda Sampson

Jack’s Cupboard is an on-campus pantry in Ben Reifel for students who struggle to purchase food. It is open 3:30-6:30 p.m. every Wednesday and Thursday.

Brianna Schreurs, Editor-in-Chief

Put Kas Williams, Becky Jensen, Jennifer McLaughlin and Christina Kaberline in a room and it’s easy to understand why Jack’s Cupboard has taken off so quickly.

Jack’s Cupboard is an on-campus pantry for students who are struggling to purchase food. It opened Nov. 19, 2018. 

The idea sparked while Williams, interim director of the Office of Diversity, Inclusion, Equity and Access, and Kaberline, associate director of Residential Life, shared a cup of coffee more than four months ago.

“We always have big dreams over coffee,” Williams said.

A “big dream” was exactly what came of it. They began to connect with the right people like McLaughlin, the university sustainability specialist, Jensen, dietetics and nutrition internship program director and Heidi Haro, general manager of Aramark at SDSU. 

These are only five of the 12-person committee that created Jack’s Cupboard, which is the first of its kind at public South Dakota universities. Since opening, nearly 100 students have been helped.

“It’s been one of the most magical experiences I’ve ever had,” Kaberline said. “It’s happened so fast and things just kind of fell into place.”

Students use their student IDs to get food. The committee wanted to make the program as private as possible to take the shame out of the experience going to Jack’s Cupboard.

“We were really intentional about was creating a place where students respect and got a sense of their dignity. We wanted an area that wasn’t some back room in the corner.” Williams said. “We want students to feel dignified when they walk in.”

University Housing and Residential Life provided the space on the southeast side of Ben Reifel. It’s bright and inviting. The location provides privacy through its location on the edge of campus—yet is easily accessible for on and off-campus students, located near residence halls and a 20-minute parking lot.

The prevalence of food insecurity has been on the university’s mind for a long time, Williams said. However, the degree of food insecurity at SDSU is unknown.

“That’s one of the reasons we’re doing this because we don’t know. We know it’s out there because there are different stories out there of students feeding other students,” Kaberline said. 

The food has been provided by student and community donations, parking services and students extra block and Flex donations.

“I was overwhelmed by the amount of food that had been donated,” said Amanda Huested, a student volunteer. “The whole counter was full of boxes and bags of donated food. This was a great reminder for me of the generosity and support the SDSU and Brookings community is willing to provide.”

 Around 240 meals were donated by students’ Flex dollars and blocks.

“This program is all about students taking care of students and we want to make sure the ownership is with our students,” Williams said. 

 This is only the beginning. For long-term goals, the team hopes to provide fresh produce and offer coats, winter accessories and emergency money to students. They are also reaching out to get student organizations involved. 

“Nothing ever goes this fast,” Jensen said. “It’s just getting started and right now we’re working on a budget of zero. It’s been amazing to see what we’ve been able to do.”

This semester, Jack’s Cupboard will be open 3:30-6:30 p.m. every Wednesday and Thursday beginning Jan. 9 located on the southeast side of Ben Reifel.