Campus food pantry offers no-questions-asked assistance to students


Lilah Kimble

Washington and Lee’s food pantry, located in Elrod Commons 222, offers a variety of household items, such as soap and feminine products, in addition to food options.

Helen Liu, Staff Writer

Washington and Lee’s food pantry and campus closet have provided resources to students since 2016. But five years later, both services remain little-discussed among the student body.

The food pantry was created as a direct solution for students who struggle to afford food throughout the semester. The university’s Low-Income First-Generation Team, known as LIFT, designed the pantry and continues to raise awareness about it.

Senior Program Coordinator for the Office of Inclusion and Engagement, Fio Giraldo Prado de Lewis, said the purpose of the initiative is an “extremely important” means to improve students’ quality of life on campus.

With the Division of Student Affairs as its sponsor and supporter, the food pantry serves to aid students in need by providing them with essential items anonymously and at no cost. As for the campus closet, it is filled with casual clothing such as outerwear, t-shirts, pants and shoes, in addition to professional attire.

In contrast to the food pantry, the campus closet doesn’t have a webpage where students can access information.

Tamara Futrell, dean for diversity, inclusion and student engagement, said the campus closet is especially important for students who came to Washington and Lee from elsewhere in the country.

“We knew that there were students who were unable to provide themselves with clothing for the winter, especially if they were from a geographical location where they had no experience with cold weather or winter,” she said.

Both initiatives are located in Elrod Commons room 222 and are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Giraldo Prado de Lewis said the program is available not just to undergraduate students, but to law students as well.

Students can use the program confidentially, without any kind of sign-up process. The pantry shelves canned items, breakfast items, milk, eggs, vegetables, fruit and frozen items that include vegetables and convenience meals. All items are provided free of charge and are the students to keep if they wish to.

Items borrowed from the campus closet also do not have to be returned.

The Office of Inclusion and Engagement, in its effort to raise awareness of resource insecurity among students, plans to host activities this month to shine a spotlight on campus programs.

One upcoming event is Pack the Pantry, which will take place over Young Alumni Weekend on Oct. 28-29. There, alumni can support the Office of Inclusion and Engagement by donating food and clothing.

Internal donations are encouraged for both initiatives, with non-perishable items such as canned and dry foods being preferable. Should students have something specific that they want, they can also request it anonymously on the wish list located in the space.

“The Food Pantry and the Campus Closet provide service with love and care,” Giraldo Prado de Lewis said. “We make sure the whole process is confidential, and make every student feel respected.”