Food for thought

After sitting vacant for more than a year, Catawba Valley Community College’s old student bookstore has new life.

Shelves that were recently empty are now filled — not with books, but with granola bars, crackers, Rice Krispies Treats, even canned soup and vegetables.

It’s a snack bar, and the best part is it’s free.

Buc’s Cupboard officially opened on the first floor of CVCC’s Student Services building this week, giving all students access to a food pantry that requires no fees or money from students.

“There’s a lot of students who can’t really afford food right now, when they are paying for gas, bills and books,” said Julian Larry, CVCC’s assistant men’s basketball coach and program coordinator for Minority Men on the Move, which helped start the program. “How can a student learn when they’re hungry?”

The Cupboard, named after CVCC’s Buccaneer mascot, is open to students from 9-11 a.m. and 4-6 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. By simply showing their college ID, students can visit the pantry twice a week and take two items for free.

The idea for the food pantry stemmed from a statewide challenge from North Carolina Campus Compact, a collection of “engaged campuses” across the state that work together to produce civic and community projects. Starting with only 15 campuses in 2002, the Campus Compact has grown throughout the past decade to involve 44 campuses, including CVCC.

For its 10th year celebration, the Campus Compact issued a series of special initiatives and events, including a “Statewide Challenge to End Hunger.”

CVCC’s Student Government Association, Office of Multicultural Affairs and Minority Men on the Move immediately embraced the hunger challenge.

“It is truly a student-driven initiative,” said Dr. Linda Lutz, executive director of student and community engagement at CVCC.

The pantry is manned by student volunteers who check IDs and usher students through the process.

Will White is a student volunteer at the pantry and a member of Minority Men on the Move.

“I think it’s a good deal because it’s a hard time in the economy and you have to pay for food, gas and a list of other things,” White said. “It’s not much, but it definitely helps.”

Among other things, the pantry includes bagged chips, crackers, canned goods, applesauce, Easy Mac, Ramen noodles, Pop-Tarts, Nature Valley granola bars and assorted snacks.

As for the future, Lutz said the pantry should stay in its current location until at least the summer, when it will have to find another location.