The University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Campus Cupboard is moving to its new location in the old bookstore on East St. Mary Street, along with the Career Closet which provides free professional clothing to students. Both are set to open after Labor Day, with a targeted date of Sept. 7.
The Campus Cupboard provides non-perishable food items to students who are in need, allowing them to come in and grab what they need to be able to fix a meal for themselves. Dean of Students Margarita Perez spoke on how the Campus Cupboard came about as a response to the most basic needs of students.
“It really came out of a group of faculty and staff who noticed that we had students that were food insecure, meaning that we had students that didn’t have enough to eat on a regular basis, and we recognized that that is an obstacle to student success,” Perez said. “If you don’t have enough to eat, if you’re hungry, if you don’t have enough nourishment, your body doesn’t operate properly and how can you possibly focus on doing well in your courses and in your co-curricular activities?”
The Campus Cupboard was originally located in the ESL (English as a Second Language) building on Brook Avenue, but there was soon a need for a larger and more accessible space for students. Barnes and Noble taking over the school bookstore provided the opportunity to move both the Campus Cupboard and the Career Closet into the old bookstore, getting them onto the main campus to be more easily accessed by students looking to use the services or donate to them.
Work on converting the old bookstore into a space for the Campus Cupboard and Career Closet has been ongoing all summer, including hiring graduate assistants and student workers, ensuring that there will be enough food in store and improving the student experience of these services.
“The cupboard is going to operate more like a store,” Perez said. “We have more shelving units, we have aisles where students will be able to go in and shop for their items and then check out at the front. Our Career Closet has racks of clothing like you would find at a store. They have a dressing room where students can try on items. So we’ve really tried to take these two services and really enhance them and upgrade what we can provide students that need these services.”
For students interested in donating and contributing to these services, the Campus Cupboard accepts non-perishable items, while the Career Closet accepts gently used professional clothing that could be worn to an interview. After opening, the Campus Cupboard will also be offering volunteer opportunities to individual students or student organizations that want to help out.
Students who want to use the Campus Cupboard will just have to walk into the new building, fill out the paperwork with a staff member and then they’re free to get a bag and shop for what they need.
UL Lafayette has also partnered with Sodexo to develop the Swipe-Out Program, with a small pilot run having been done over the past spring semester. Sodexo has provided the meals to create a Meal Swipe Bank, allowing students to get free meal swipes to use in the Student Union’s cafeteria, even if they don’t have a meal plan. Senior Associate Dean of Students Gregory Zerangue is managing the program on the university’s side and spoke on its goal of helping students facing food insecurity.
“It’s towards helping our students on campus who may have some food inadequacies and needing extra meals, or maybe a student lost a job or is not getting enough time,” Zerangue said. “We all know with the cost of inflation it gets costly to even go to the grocery store.”
Students are able to apply at UL Lafayette and Sodexo’s website, where they’ll fill out a short form and be contacted soon after to assess their needs. Students can also donate their own meal swipes by reaching out to Zerangue via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.