VCU Free Store opens, provides resources for students, limits waste

Free Store offers household items and school supplies for students, faculty and staff. Photos by Katie Farthings.

Katie Farthing, Copy Editor

VCU opened the Free Store on Oct. 25 which features donated household items, school supplies and a meeting area for student groups, according to Parker Long, sustainability manager for administration and operations.

The store serves as an “on-campus resource that promotes equitable access for students, faculty and staff to everyday needs,” according to a previous report by The Commonwealth Times

Long said the Free Store was created to prevent waste as a result of student move out. 

“We are trying to keep as much as we can out of the landfill,” Long said. “We wanted to capture that, those usable goods and give them to the next cohort of students.” 

Long said students can use PantrySoft, a program that allows students to sign up and schedule appointments, and their VCU ID to utilize the Free Store. Students are given three credits per month and the ability to “buy” one five-credit item per semester. 

The store takes donations from the VCU and the Richmond community, but is only available for VCU students, faculty and staff to utilize, according to Long. 

“We want to prioritize VCU students because that’s who we’re here for,” Long said. “I do think that there’s going to be donations that students don’t end up wanting that we will donate to the community.” 

Long said the Free Store also has a meeting area for groups and individual students to gather and work together. 

Students gather in movable meeting area inside Free Store. Photos by Katie Farthings.

“Not only do I think we need more spaces like that on campus, we’re also like, it’s such a nice, beautiful space. We wanted to let other people use it too,” Long said. 

Long said there has been a “steady flow” of students since the store’s opening a few weeks ago.

“We’d love for people to donate because that’s the only way that we’re gonna continue to have inventory,” Long said. “We’re just really excited to be a resource for students.” 

Mary Konahap, a senior supply chain student and intern for VCU Sustainability, said working at the Free Store has been a “great opportunity” and she enjoys seeing students finding items they love. 

Konahap said her work focuses on organization and providing items that students want.

“I pay attention to the details such as popular items that students are picking out on the shelves and then I just make sure to replenish the shelves as needed,” Konahap said. 

VCU Free Store is located at 930 W Grace St. Photos by Katie Farthings.


Sustainability is important to understand and support due to the current transition from global warming to global boiling, according to Konahap. She said the store provides a combination of the “environmental and social aspects” of sustainability. 

“Figuring out ways to distribute resources to students in need while also reducing global waste as well, that’s something that I really like,” Konahap said. 

Some students appreciate VCU’s efforts to be more sustainable and address accessibility issues for students. 

A’mya Wilson Hale, a junior psychology student, said she’s heard of the store but has yet to visit. She said access is correlated with waste. 

“If it’s things that people are not going to use anymore, then why not have a space where people can check to see if there’s something useful that they can have?” Wilson Hale said. 

Wilson Hale said she likes that VCU offers opportunities to reduce waste and address food scarcity. 

“I feel like VCU definitely strives to be sustainable in different outlets and I think that’s definitely really important,” Wilson Hale said.   

Rachel Snyder, an environmental studies student, lives off campus but said she likes that there are resources for on-campus students who might not be able to work or get transportation. 

“The most sustainable thing is always to just use what people already have and not create more waste,” Snyder said.   

Jimmy Koshute, a mechanical engineering student, said VCU could do better but that the Free Store is a good first step towards sustainability and accessibility. 

“I think it’s important for students to be able to have access to everything they need,” Koshute said.

The Free Store is located at 930 W. Grace St and is open Wednesday through Friday from noon through 4 p.m., according to the VCU Sustainability website.

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