Battling Student Hunger

Kasia Kovacs A door in the basement of George Washington University’s newest residence hall, still smelling of paint, is unremarkable. It has no sign. Inside, it’s packed with food. Shelves are stocked with instant oatmeal, boxes of polenta, plastic bags of pasta, salt and pepper. Dairy and produce fill three refrigerators. A cardboard cutout of a hippo, the unofficial mascot of GW, greets visitors near the door: “Welcome to The Store!” it says in a thought bubble. This isn’t technically a store, though, because students don’t have to pay for these items. It’s a food pantry for hungry students, and it’s one of 395 member food banks of the College and University Food Bank Alliance. Four years ago, when the organization began, it only had 15 members. The group got a significant jump in membership this time last year, when it hit 300 members. Students at the GW store must sign out with the number of items they take, which is usually not a lot. One took three apples and a muffin. Another grabbed frozen ravioli and a roll of paper towels. But all students who come to The Store remained anonymous. One left a note on a brown paper bag: “I just want to say thank you. I walked in and I felt terrified. I cried at how many options there are, and how much people must care to do this. Bless you all.” Another student scribbled a note underneath: “May God bless you for such a well-thought idea. This is so beautifully done. I’m not a person with a rich family, so this really supported my financial needs. Seriously, may God bless you a thousandfold! Amen!” A single mother left a note on lined paper: “You cannot imagine how much relief this gift has brought me on so many levels. Yes, we go to GW. Yes, we sometimes can’t afford food. Thank you for hearing our voice and caring. I love you, too.” These students are not anomalies at the private university in Washington. The Store held a soft opening Sept. 21. Twelve students attended. By the end of October, 267 students were coming to the food pantry per day. Like many colleges, GW opened its food pantry thanks to a philanthropic donation. This initial money will last four years, said Tim Miller, associate dean of students...

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