Tell us about The Store.
The Store was created after a group of First-Generation Students (FGS) expressed feelings of extreme hunger such as "going to sleep to avoid feeling hungry" and "scheduling afternoon classes to avoid eating breakfast." These statements partnered with the national study that stated students were choosing to buy textbooks over food sparked a nationwide conversation. Administration leaders such as our previous Associate Dean of Students, Tim Miller, helped initially start a much-needed conversation on campus. A couple of families came together and donated $10,000…half of the money went to start an FGS program and the other half to The Store. Since then we have helped over one thousand students, faculty and staff.
You are not only Vice President, but a shopper at The Store as well. What’s your story?
I come from a very small town in NW Iowa where the cost of living is much different than that of DC. Being a rising senior I have spent a lot of time at GW and seen a lot of changes and the creation of The Store is one of the best things I have seen happen.
After my freshman year, I came home weighing 10 pounds less than I did starting school. With the staggering expenses associated with college, mixed with living in the most expensive city in the US, I ran out of my GW allocated dining dollars. Even with a part-time job I was still unable to keep up. A year ago, I stumbled upon an amazing resource made available to GW students – the GW Store, a student-run food bank on campus.
I became one of over 600 students at GW to use this resource that drastically changed my college experience. With money for books and [a] full stomach, my academic life and overall happiness greatly improved. As per Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, it is impossible to achieve cognitive advancement without meeting safety needs (food, shelter, water). I wanted to give back to the community that helped me so much. This past January I ran for Vice President and will continue to serve in this position for the duration of the fall semester. I remained a shopper during my term. My favorite thing is the ability to advocate for those who are unable to do so themselves for whatever reason – usually stigma associated with this issue.
What are some of the biggest challenges you see students facing today concerning food insecurity?
Stigma is the absolute biggest obstacle that gets in the way of fighting food insecurity. The stigma leads to students thinking they will be judged by their peers, or administrations scared to acknowledge problems at their universities. We at The Store have dealt with these issues but do not let it stop us from helping those who need it. A way we have found works is to operate on the idea of anonymity, where we only ask for their email to receive the weekly newsletter and their student ID to gain access to The Store. We have found that the lack of red tape leads to more people reaching out for assistance.
Any other advice you'd like to add for students who don't know how they're going to make ends meet?
Use coupons! Sign up for memberships to gain points like CVS. I love, love, love coupons you can find them for basically anything from food to AMC movie tickets. It really is a good way to help save money.