Free food pantry with fresh produce and meat opens in KU’s student union

photo by: Kathy Hanks

Jake King, a KU freshman from Yates Center, volunteers at the Campus Cupboard on Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018. The new food pantry opened Monday, Sept. 24, 2018, at KU's Memorial Union.

Jake King had been on the job only 30 minutes as he sorted through a box of ripe tomatoes at the Campus Cupboard.

The University of Kansas freshman was volunteering several hours Tuesday in the food bank in exchange for extra credit in his social welfare class.

Not only was King new, so was the space on the fourth level of the Kansas Memorial Union on Jayhawk Boulevard. It had just opened Monday after being transformed into a food pantry.

The Campus Cupboard offers free food to all students, faculty and staff. No forms need to be filled out, and no special qualifications are necessary, King said. People need to provide only KU identification.

Then they are free to shop in what looks like a small market filled with baskets of fresh fruit, boxes of cereal, jars of peanut butter and a refrigerator with everything from flank steak to gluten-free products.

Jake King, 18, a KU freshman from Yates Center, was volunteering at the Campus Cupboard on Tuesday, Sept.25, 2018. The food pantry opened in KU’s Memorial Union on Monday, Sept. 24, 2018.

No money is exchanged. Shoppers can visit the store twice a week, and each time they get 15 points. It’s up to them if they want to spend all those points on Oreo cookies.

“The point system is really nice,” King said. “A package of meat is five points, and rice is three points, and for eight points you can make a meal that has four servings, which for one person is four meals.”

Over the summer the Campus Cupboard moved from its former location in the Westwood House, 1421 W. 19th St., which is where the Lutheran and Methodist campus ministries are. It’s in collaboration with the Office of Student Affairs, the School of Social Welfare, the Center for Community Outreach, Student Senate and Just Food, said Elizabeth Keever, executive director of Just Food, the Douglas County food bank.

Some of the items Just Food has stocked at the new pantry were donated to the food bank from local grocery stores and area farms, while other items were purchased by Just Food, and others come from food drives. The KU Dining Service has also donated food.

“It’s incredible to see students working toward making sure students on the KU campus don’t go without food,” Keever said of the student volunteers.

Prior to opening the new location, in the student union, they have had small pop-up pantries.

“This is an ideal location, in the heart of KU,” Keever said. “It’s a great opportunity to have healthy food, and it’s where people can shop with dignity.”

As Bri Ross walked through the door, she appeared surprised.

“I didn’t know it was here,” said Ross, a senior studying to be an athletic trainer. She had taken advantage of the cupboard when it was housed at Westwood House.

She said she would definitely avail herself of the free food if a time came when she needed it. But her immediate reaction was wanting to volunteer at the food pantry.

King said he would feel comfortable shopping in the food pantry if he needed to.

“But at the moment, I can provide for myself,” he said.

Just Food will keep the shelves stocked with food, Keever said.

“This is only the beginning,” she said.


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