Nov. 15, 2018
Where will your next meal come from?
Most people in the United States are fortunate enough to not have to worry about this, but for those that do not fall into that majority, food insecurity is a serious issue—one that 12.9 percent of Americans face on a daily basis.
University students are not immune from hunger either; a 2016 survey concluded that 48 percent of U.S. college students reported food insecurity, with 22 percent reporting very low food security, classifying them as hungry. Northern Arizona University students found this statistic alarming, and were determined to mitigate this issue on their campus.
In 2012 as part of a class project, social work students were tasked with creating a sustainable program that would affect at least 30 students on campus. Realizing the issue of food insecurities across college campuses, the students created a nonprofit to reduce hunger. They called it Louie’s Cupboard.
The idea behind the cupboard was to serve as an on-campus food pantry to help NAU students, faculty and staff in need.
“You walk past so many people a day without a thought to it. It’s crazy to think of dealing with anything other than what you have on your own plate,” said Lily Davis, Northern Arizona University junior and student president of Louie’s Cupboard. “There is a definite stigma behind food insecurity that does not belong there. But there is no shame in needing help, which is what we are here to do.”
During the first year of the program, Louie’s Cupboard served about 80 clients, nearly three times more than their professor required.
“Clearly they exceeded their goal,” Davis joked.
The program was so successful that it was continued, despite its founders graduating shortly after its inception. What started as a small senior capstone project has turned into a lifeline for Lumberjacks who struggle with food insecurities.
Five years later, Louie’s Cupboard serves more than 200 clients a year, distributing food every other Friday. Throughout the 2016-17 academic year, the student-run program saw 658 requests. Over a period of 14 distributions, nearly 20,000 food items were handed out, with the average client requesting food six times.
Sydnee Stogner, NAU alumna and previous client coordinator for Louie’s Cupboard, said coming from a lower-middle class gave her an understanding of how it felt for some families and students who struggle to have enough food.
“Being a part of this organization, and being able to provide them the resources they were lacking, helped me realize that by our small acts, we were making huge differences in the lives of students, staff and faculty at NAU,” she said.
The process of requesting a distribution is simple. To start, individuals can go to the program’s website. There, they fill out a quick survey as to who will be receiving the food and volunteers are then able to track clients through their NAU ID.
Picking up items is just as easy; clients may show up to the office between 3 and 6 p.m. on distribution days to retrieve their items. For those who are unable to make it during those hours, volunteers running the pantry will make sure their needs are met.
Louie’s Cupboard works closely with organizations throughout Flagstaff to maintain its stock and make it accessible to its clients. Each Friday before distributions, volunteers make a trip to the Flagstaff Family Food Center and pick up food items needed to fulfill the requests they received for that week. On average, the program sees about 46 requests, which can come to about 300 food items needed for the pantry.
Board members are hopeful word will continue to spread, both on campus and in Flagstaff.
“I hope that Louie’s Cupboard continues to grow in their client outreach and their service,” Stogner said. “I hope that the numbers continue to grow and that its impact is more visible on campus and in the community.”
For more information on donations, distributions and how to get involved, please visit nau.edu/first-gen/louies-cupboard.