Couponing for a cause

October 26, 2012

Karen Holland and Tala Nchamukong Karen Holland and CIViC student worker Tala Nchamukong show off the Student Food Pantry.

Karen Holland remembers what it was like to struggle to make ends meet.

With only $20 to spare, she’d plan her weekly grocery shopping carefully. Scour the sales circulars; clip the coupons; repeat.

While it’s no longer a necessity for Holland to stock up on coupons, she hasn’t given up the habit. Now, though, she’s couponing for a cause as she supports University of Michigan-Dearborn’s new Student Food Pantry.

The pantry, run out of the Community Involvement and Volunteerism Center (CIViC), provides temporary food assistance to students in need.

“We know there is a need on campus. There are students on campus who do not get enough to eat, and the food pantry is helping to fill that need,” said Holland, special events coordinator within the Office of the Chancellor. “I might not be able to donate as much money, but I can sure give them things to use.”

Armed with a binder of coupons, Holland will visit her local drug store, purchasing items to donate. Her fine-tuned system—she knows the various stores’ saver programs and can rattle off coupon jargon like BOGO and blinkie with ease—has enabled her to donate hundreds of dollars worth of goods to the pantry for just a fraction of the cost.

“When I first started going to stores, I’d pull out my binder and you could just see the looks on the clerks’ faces like, ‘Oh great, one of those ladies,” Holland said. “But I explained what I’m doing and now I walk in and they all say hi to me.”

Holland has donated some food items to the pantry. But she also saw another need: toiletries.

“Government food assistance programs like the Bridge card don’t cover toiletries,” said Amy Karaban, assistant director of civic engagement. “But hunger doesn’t happen in isolation. If you’re hungry, you’re probably not buying things like shampoo and soap.”

Karaban has been grateful for Holland’s support in the early days of the program. Holland’s enthusiasm is symbolic of the support she’s seen throughout campus—from the group of dedicated student staff members at the CIViC to the faculty and staff already donating time and goods.

“We don’t ‘officially’ open until January, but we have already started to serve clients,” Karaban said. “Thankfully, our shelves are lined with food because of the generosity of people on campus.”

Look for more information on the Student Food Pantry in the coming months. Want to learn how you can get involved? Email Karaban or call her at 313-593-6589.

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