Through a survey conducted by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, the issue of student hunger is being addressed and combated with a new on-campus food pantry.
UL Lafayette’s Campus Cupboard is a food pantry aimed to provide products to students, faculty and staff.
The program was launched in November 2018 by UL Lafayette’s Pearson Cross, Ph.D. and Margarita Perez, Ph.D. The project partnered with surrounding organizations such as Second Harvest Food Bank and United Way of Acadiana to effectively supply essentials to the students of UL Lafayette.
Did you know:
Up to 40 percent of UL Lafayette Students
identify as food insecure.
Food insecurity, according to Dr. Cross, is an issue of obtaining food throughout a college career before, during and after a student’s semester.
Cross and Perez said that the issue of hunger throughout a school week can be detrimental to a student’s academic performance.
“You shouldn’t have to chose between food or putting gas in your car,” Perez said.
Last fall, Cross approached Perez with the issue of food insecurity on campus. Cross also said that this is a campus of community, so he knew that the cupboard would be welcomed by students, faculty and staff.
What the Cupboard offers
The facility stocks, dried and canned foods along with microwaveables. With the new refrigerator, sponsored by Coca-Cola, they are now able to store fresh and frozen products as well.
Cross said that the cupboard was originally designed to serve as a food pantry, however, “our survey showed that students needed assistance with toiletries along with food.”
The cupboard also provides toilet paper and paper towels and various hygiene products.
“I want students who need it to use it because that’s why we have it”- Dean Margarita Perez, Ph.D
How the Cupboard works
According to Trey Declambre, grad student and Campus Cupboard volunteer, the Campus Cupboard’s process for receiving help is designed to be confidential and easy.
Each customer is asked to fill out a survey form provided by Second Harvest Food Bank. That survey also allows customers access to any Second Harvest food pantry in the Lafayette area, according to Perez.
“The form is basically there to help us determine what we need to keep in stock and collects details on our customer’s situations,” Declambre said.
Cross said it’s a service that won’t refuse anyone based off of eligibility.
“If you need food, we’ll help you,” Cross said.
After the customer fills out the form, they are given space to take items that they need from the cupboard.
Volunteers and Partnerships
Second Harvest Food Bank is one local agency that works with Campus Cupboard to provided consistent food donations. Through the Second Harvest survey and scheduled product deliveries, the cupboard stays stocked with a variety of items.
“We want the form so that we can track which goods are being taken most,” Perez said.
Declambre said that Second Harvest allows the pantry to stay regularly stocked through the scheduled deliveries.
UL Lafayette faculty and staff participate in an annual campaign with United Way of Acadiana. Through the campaign, the staff can contribute to an agency that has partnered with United Way. As of last year, United Way has adopted the Campus Cupboard as one of their agencies. Therefore, UL Lafayette employees are able to monetarily donate to the cupboard through United Way.
“We’ve set up a foundation account where that money goes and we can use that money for other supplements the cupboard needs like toiletries,” Perez said.
Now that the cupboard is fully stocked and sufficiently running, Cross and Perez are in the process of publicizing Campus Cupboard’s services. “We’re at the point where we want to ramp it up. We want to ramp up volunteers and usage,” Perez said.
Volunteers can sign up by filing out the Campus Cupboard volunteer signup form.
For years to come
Following their soft opening in November 2018, UL Lafayette held its official grand opening on April 11 for their Campus Cupboard.
Located at the UL Lafayette Intensive English Program on 413 Brook Ave., the Campus Cupboard showcased the cupboard to both the students and the community, according to Cross.
“The grand opening is just announced to the community at large that we are providing services for students,” Cross said. “It’s hard to get things on people’s radar, so this is to get the word out on our services.”
Perez says that the Cupboard is planning to create leadership positions in order to promote student engagement. The goal is to set up a collaboration between students leaders and UL Lafayette faculty advisers.
“I would like this to become a student-lead, student-focused organization,” Cross said.
By involving more students, Perez and Cross believe Campus Cupboard’s services will be effectively marketed around campus.
“We want students to know about it, faulty and staff to know about it so they can share that information in the classroom, ” Perez said. “This is something that will keep serving students for years to come.”
Aaron Gonsoulin contributed to this story.