Community Cupboard now expanding to include donated guest meal swipes


Shariliz Poveda, Reporter

Campus Ministry’s Community Cupboard at California Lutheran University has expanded to collect donated meal swipes at Ullman Commons.

The Community Cupboard is a year-round food pantry open 24 hours a day to students who need any food or snacks, said Elizabeth Lohr-Myers, the Campus Ministry administrative assistant who keeps up the cupboard.

Over five years ago, a student came to Campus Ministry asking for help with food scarcity. This was the first time Campus Ministry became aware of food scarcity on campus and the lack of ways to address it, Lohr-Myers said. This inspired them to create the Community Cupboard.

Since then, the once singular file cabinet has grown to three, and now includes gift cards and meal swipes for use at Ullman Commons, Lohr-Myers said. 

Lohr-Myers said Garrett Mueller, a Cal Lutheran student, was the leading force behind the donated meal swipe program. 

“As a student program coordinator for the Center for Equality & Justice and a student delegate on CLU’s Equity Leadership Council, I focused on alleviating student hunger on campus, a topic seldom discussed but certainly present,” Mueller said in an email interview.

Mueller said other schools such as Loyola Marymount University also have similar programs in place. He met with different board members and key administrative figures until the program was eventually approved for the fall 2019 debut, Mueller said.

“There is great potential for this program to work, and I’m hopeful students decide to donate their guest meal swipes to those in need, particularly since most students do not use their guest meal swipes anyways,” Mueller said.

Lohr-Myers said this idea had been circling around but it wasn’t advocated for until Mueller came in.

“Luckily he was willing to step in and apply more pressure, so he gets all the credit for the meal swipe program,” Lohr-Myers said.

The program works by telling the front desk worker at Ullman Commons that you would like to donate your guest meal swipe. Students can then collect certificates for use at Ullman Commons in the office at the chapel.

Currently only guest meal swipes can be donated.

Jahleel Xhamilton, assistant resident dining manager, said many students tend to use up their meal swipes before the semester is over. Xhamilton said he has witnessed students giving their guest swipes to friends who ran out of meal swipes, so the new program does not change much.

“The reason that we allow students to donate meal swipes now is for those that use all of their meal swipes [can now] have somebody send them swipes,” Xhamilton said. “We have students that are here for school, here to create a better world and here to spread the purpose. Now they have energy and ability to do so based on being able to provide food, nutrition or just energy for themselves.”

Lohr-Myers said in order to keep up with higher demand for donations, Campus Ministry has expanded who it asks for donations from, rather than asking for more donations from the same donors. Campus Ministry staff sent out an email asking different administrative offices to sign up for a month where they would collect donations.

Undergraduate Admission and Financial Aid office are the two offices that signed up for the month of October.

“Especially with us working in Financial Aid, we understand that students have hardships and we want to make sure that we provide them the resources beyond our duties in the Financial Aid office,” operations assistant for the Financial Aid office Courtney Sabile said. “So I think that it’s great that our campus does have the Community Cupboard to serve those students with food insecurities.”

Sabile said they are collecting donations within their office and are working to encourage their staff to donate items. The donation bin in Financial Aid is located near the front desk.

According to their website, Campus Ministry is always accepting donations of snack items and non perishable foods. 

The cupboard can be used anonymously and doesn’t require any payment or donation from the student.

“I’m really hoping that word about [the] meal swipe program will spread because I know a lot of students don’t use all their meals,” Lohr-Meyers said. “This is a way for them to keep in mind that donation needs to happen year-round, not just around the holidays.”