Comet Cupboard continues to operate despite physical location closing

Mrunmayi Sathaye
Mercury Staff

Volunteers prepare boxes of food to distribute to students on first-come first-serve basis

The Comet Cupboard’s campus location shut down indefinitely due to the novel coronavirus outbreak. Despite the shutdown, the Comet Cupboard staff is continuing to distribute food to the UTD community by packaging and handing out boxes through food donation drives.

Staff members aren’t conducting their typical walk-in service during normal operating hours and the Comet Cupboard isn’t staffed with its usual volunteers, but with the help of the UTD police officers, they’re continuing to reach out to students who need resources.

As of April 9, the Comet Cupboard has had three food donation drives and has donated 185 boxes. During the first week of campus shut down, staff members prepared 50 boxes of items and distributed them on a first-come first-serve basis in front of the library.

“That helped us get a feel of how we were going to do it afterwards, and since then we’ve just been taking it on a week-by-week basis,” said Comet Cupboard Director Hillary Campbell. “We need to get permission from the university administration to continue doing it. Things are changing daily with COVID so the situation with the university is changing as well.”

Campbell said that the Cupboard is using a strict social distancing policy with staff and students when distributing the boxes.

“We have two staff members and two university police department officers,” Campbell said. “We take the boxes and we space them out on the sidewalk six feet apart, and students are responsible for retrieving and packing up their box in the vehicle they came in or on foot.”

Typically, the Comet Cupboard serves 3,000 unique users a year. Students are able to take three to five items depending on the inventory, and they can come to the Cupboard once a day. Now, inventory is diminishing due to the amount of food given in each box.

“In the past couple of weeks, the user has been able to select up to 30 items at a time, so what we’re trying to do is make sure they have enough to get through a couple weeks,” Campbell said. “We know that 30 items are not enough to get through a couple weeks but we’re doing the best we can.”

Campbell said the Cupboard is replenishing its inventory through various donations. Dining services, for instance, donated packaged snacks, while the school of management donated cash.

“This has been a really heartwarming part of engaging in this distribution service during this time just to see how the campus community and external community have pulled together,” Campbell said. “(What) we have found to be the most helpful right now are these (physical) donations.”

Campbell said that community members can make monetary donations online or email the Comet Cupboard to set up a time for physical donations.

“The Comet Cupboard does have a giving page that you can access from the Comet Cupboard website,” she said. “Our hope is to be able to continue at least doing some version of what we did last week and we’re going to do again this week.”

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