'Everybody here is family:' Cardinals Food Pantry combats food insecurity on campus

No student at Lamar University should ever go hungry. Food insecurity is a problem that some LU students have to deal with from time to time.

To help prevent this issue, the Wesley Foundation, located between Combs Hall and the Brooks Shivers Dining Hall, has teamed up with its partners across campus to create the Cardinals Food Pantry, a free and anonymous food pantry especially for LU students.

Rev. Amy Walker, campus minister of the Wesley Foundation at Lamar University, shares more about the resource and its mission — to help Lamar University students succeed in their pursuit of higher education by providing access to free, nutritious food and additional resources.

Q: What is the mission of Cardinals Pantry?
A: The mission of Cardinals Pantry is to be able to feed students and faculty and staff at Lamar University and Lamar Institute of Technology that may not be able to make it from day to day or week to week to just provide for those with food insecurity.

Q: Can you share with the audience a little about the background of the pantry?
A: We were working with the Southeast Texas Food Bank trying to establish a food pantry and then we realized we were both kind of doing the same thing. So that’s when I was like, “Hey, let’s just kind of condense into this one and not have several different food pantries.” Cardinals Pantry

Q: What has been the response since opening the pantry?
A: Honestly, it’s been extremely slow because people don’t really know about it. And the semester when it opened in 2017, we had floods and then we had COVID-19. But since we’re all back on campus, I feel like this semester has been our most active semester with the food pantry. We have people coming in every day now for the food pantry. So, it’s been very, very much appreciated.

Q: What are the requirements for accessing the food pantry?
A: You just need a Lamar University or LIT ID — that’s all they have to do. There is a paper that they have to sign up for the food bank, but it only needs to be signed once a year, then they can get whatever they need once a week.

Q: How is success for carrying out your mission measured?
A: I don’t really think that we are really capable right now of measuring just because food insecurity seems to be something that students are embarrassed about and people want to be very private about it. So, we’ll have some students that will walk in here like, “Hey! I’m here for food!” and they just know what to do and there are other students who will come in and whisper and they don’t want anybody to know what they’re doing. So, we’ve tried to make it, when they come into the Wesley Foundation itself, like a home away from home. Everybody here is a family. So when they come down, we try to make sure that they understand like it’s not a big deal. If you need food, everybody in this building comes in and gets food, so it’s really hard to measure that. But when we started, there were a lot of students that were living out of their cars and going through the holidays without any food, so when we can, we make sure that no student is going hungry; then we’ll be successful.

Q: What would you say to students who are hesitant to utilize this resource?
A: I would say that it’s very common for every single person who goes to college to not have the finances to put toward food. And there’s no judgement here at all. I mean, just come in and students will get food out of the pantry just to eat lunch and they’ll cook the food here in our kitchen. We allow that, too. So, just don’t be scared about it because nobody here cares or judges.

Q: How can the community help? What kinds of items are you looking for in a donation?
A: We are always looking for individually packaged items. So, like individual cereal items or cereal bars — that kind of stuff — fruit cups, like snack things. We always have tons of vegetables, but it’s always the breakfast items that we are lacking in and meats like tuna fish. And there in the beginning, we were struggling because we didn’t have any can openers and all the goods that we got originally, none of them were pop tops. So, we had a church from Houston donate can openers.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
A: On Fridays, we partner with St. Mark’s Episcopal Church around 10:30 a.m. packing 200 bags and pass out snack packs behind the dining hall for free. It’s a good way to get students in the door to the pantry.

The Cardinals Pantry is open Monday through Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

Learn more about the Cardinals Food Panty and how you can help