The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Reduces Food Insecurity with Its Food Pantry

How a mid-sized, public university uses digital forms powered by Modern Campus Presence to increase access to its food pantry through online ordering

 

About UW Oshkosh

 

 

13,000+

students across 3 campuses

 

44%

first-generation students

 

180+

student organizations

in this case study: Missy Burgess, Associate Director for Student Involvement and Tyler Klaver, Program Advisor

Students are very thankful that they’re able to have access to The Cabinet and its food. Especially during pandemic restrictions, we saw that usage skyrocket through the roof. I’m not sure how we would have done it—moved ordering online and managing distribution safely—without Presence. The forms make everything so smooth.

Tyler Klaver

The Challenge

In February 2020, the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s Student Government introduced a vital service for student success, health and wellness; they opened The Cabinet, a free food pantry. The aim was to reduce food insecurity, a problem experienced by about a third of the university’s student population and half of its students of color. 

The response was swift. Around 150 students visited the pantry within its first few weeks, taking more than 800 pounds of food.

But then came COVID-19, and after just 18 days of The Cabinet’s grand opening, UWO shut down nearly all its in-person operations. Allowing students to browse the food pantry at their leisure was no longer possible.

Based on the health and safety restrictions at the time, we couldn't have in-person hours to open up for students to use the pantry.

Tyler Klaver

The Solution & Result

Modern Campus Presence enabled The Cabinet to smoothly pivot to online ordering.

The Student Involvement team wouldn’t let a global health crisis deter them. In March 2020, they knew that The Cabinet’s services had suddenly become more crucial than before, as many students faced new financial burdens brought on by the pandemic. 

Fortunately, UWO had two vital things that allowed them to quickly and easily pivot to online ordering: An innovative attitude and their student engagement platform, Modern Campus Presence. 

Program Advisor Tyler Klaver took advantage of Presence’s drag-and-drop form creator to design a simple, yet powerful form for students to submit online orders. Here’s how it worked:

  • A student would find the form within UWO’s branded one-stop-shop engagement portal, powered by Presence. 
  • They’d fill out the form, available 24/7 online, selecting the pantry items they wanted.
  • Student Involvement staff would instantly receive an email, alerting them of a new form entry.
  • Staff would assemble the student’s order during business hours, as set by pandemic protocols.
  • The student would pick up their order on campus, at a safe social distance.

This process enabled UWO to provide students a vital service while prioritizing safety. 

 

Online ordering continues to be a popular, easy way for students to access The Cabinet.

As COVID restrictions eased, The Cabinet was able to open its in-person operations back up. Yet, the demand for online ordering remained.

Even now, when there aren’t any restrictions on how many people can use the pantry at a time, students still like the ease of ordering online. They can submit an order at midnight or during the weekend when we’re not open, then pick it up at a time that’s better for them.

Missy Burgess

Missy Burgess, Associate Director for Student Involvement, believes that online ordering helps students who worry about perceived stigmas of using a food pantry. Those students can fill out the order form and discreetly pick up their packaged food at the Student Involvement desk.

Overall usage has been astounding; The Cabinet was accessed around 1,000 times during the 2021-2022 academic year, providing students with around 7,000 pounds of food. More than 400 orders were processed virtually between when the online form premiered (in March 2020) and December 2022.

Presence’s customizable forms have made other aspects of UWO student life easier, more engaging and more efficient too.

The Student Involvement team uses digital forms to support student organizations, including registering new clubs and orgs, managing travel and processing purchase requests. Elections for student government and the homecoming court as also done through Presence forms.

Burgess and Klaver love the ease of creating new forms with drag-and-drop customization, storing all forms in one central management hub and designing approval workflows based on form responses. With Presence, the exact right students and staff are automatically notified of a new submission, enabling faster responses and cleaner inboxes. 

And with Single Sign-On, Presence ensures that forms will only be filled out by students and other eligible community members.

Single Sign-On is a huge advantage. We can just check a box and say that you have to sign in to use this form. So we know that it’s only coming from students or whomever we set the form permissions for.

Missy Burgess

Single Sign-On also allows for shorter forms; a student doesn’t need to type in their name, email address or any other personal information stored in the university’s Student Information System (SIS).

 
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