Ram pantry, a student-run organization that supplies free groceries and toiletries to VCU students, has moved locations from 819 S. Cathedral Pl. to the Student Commons, a change that has increased visibility and hours of operation.
Last month, Ram pantry began operating out of the Commons where the organization serves students seven days a week. The new location is also handicap and driveway accessible, which better enables the transportation of food donations and universal student access.
“We have had a smooth transition,” said Terrence Walker, the staff sponsor for Ram pantry and an administrative assistant for University Counseling Services. “(The Commons) did a great job preparing the new space. Holly Whitt, Ram pantry’s vice president, did a fantastic job planning the move, tons of volunteers showed up to help, and the VCU Department of Surplus played a major role helping us move the heavy items.”
Any VCU student with a student ID can utilize Ram pantry’s services, although they are required to complete a brief confidential survey prior to using the pantry. Walker said there are no other conditions attached.
Walker said Ram pantry opened in response to the staff from the Division of Student Affairs noticing an increase in students struggling with food insecurity. The resulting initiative now partners with community organizations and businesses to establish and maintain the pantry.
In a survey taken by Ram pantry organizers last Fall, 57 percent of students surveyed claimed to have gone without a sufficient amount of food because of a lack of money.
The United States Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as having “limited or uncertain access to nutritious, safe foods necessary to lead a healthy lifestyle.”
“We’re trying to tackle food insecurity; that’s our mission,” said Taylor Thompson, Ram pantry’s president, in a statement to The Commonwealth Times in September. “There are a lot of students on campus who are in need. Even for students who might not be in long term need — maybe in between jobs for a few weeks and don’t have money for groceries — we wanted to make something as simple as stocking people’s kitchens easy.”
Walker said Ram pantry serves between 30 to 100 students a week, and because Ram pantry is not funded, he said the pantry sustains itself through food drives, sponsors and donors who are willing to make a long term commitment to the pantry.
“Because demand is high, we limit the amount of food that students can take from the pantry each week,” said Walker.
He added that Ram pantry’s inventory varies from week to week, but on average, there are 2,500 to 3,000 pounds of food and personal hygiene items in stock.
Food Lion, Shalom Farms, Asbury United Methodist Church, Panera Bread, SoapBox Soap, VCU School of Dentistry, C. F. Sauer, VCU Foundation, Office of Development & Alumni Relations and numerous VCU student organizations are all consistant supporters of the food and toiletry items supplied by Ram pantry.
Walker noted that although Ram pantry has not yet achieved 501(c) 3 non-profit status, the members of the Ram pantry committee are working to do so.
“Despite not being a 501(c) 3, the Ram pantry committee and the VCU community have done an awesome job keeping the pantry open,” Walker said.
To learn more about food insecurity and Ram pantry, or if you’re interested in volunteering, please contact [email protected].