A man standing behind four trollies filled with boxes of food.
On a recent trip to Feed More, John Jones, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Center for Environmental Studies (pictured), and Lisa Mathews-Ailsworth, assistant director for student support in the Division of Student Affairs, acquired roughly 600 pounds of food for VCU's Ram Pantry. (Contributed ph

With new Feed More partnership, VCU’s Ram Pantry can provide emergency food to students at a fraction of the cost

Financial contributions to VCU’s Ram Pantry fund will now stretch further and will help many more VCU students who face food insecurity.

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Virginia Commonwealth University, the VCU Foundation and Feed More have entered into a new collaboration that will enable VCU to stock its Ram Pantry and the Little Ram Pantries pilot project with nutritious food at discounted prices.

The collaboration will greatly support VCU’s ongoing efforts to address food insecurity among its students — a problem that a recent study found affects more than one in three VCU students.  

All of the food provided by Ram Pantry, VCU’s student food pantry, and the 13 Little Ram Pantries located on both campuses, has been directly donated by individuals, organizations and corporations, either directly or through monetary donations. No university funds have been used to purchase food.

“This new partnership with Feed More will be crucial for our sustainability,” said Lisa Mathews-Ailsworth, assistant director for student support in the Division of Student Affairs, who oversees Ram Pantry. “Through Feed More’s network partnerships with local retailers and farmers, we are able to receive food from them at a fraction of the cost, allowing us to stretch our monetary donations extremely far.”

The new partnership comes as Ram Pantry is experiencing an increased demand for food among VCU students.

“This semester, we have had record numbers in regards to the number of visits and guests,” Mathews-Ailsworth said. “On average, we are having upwards of 80 people visit a week, which is double what we were seeing last year. This semester we've served 268 guests over 830 times.”

John C. Jones, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Center for Environmental Studies and a member of the Sustainable Food Access Core in VCU’s Institute for Inclusion, Inquiry, and Innovation (iCubed), has been working with Mathews-Ailsworth to facilitate the partnership with Feed More for nearly two years.

As part of the Feeding America network of food banks, Feed More can acquire food at a price point far below retail. The new agreement with VCU, Jones said, will allow Ram Pantry and Little Ram Pantries to be stocked at a similarly low price.

“As a new Feed More agency we benefit from their ability to strategically source and secure healthy food far beyond what we’d be able to do as a university,” Jones said. “Our partnership with Feed More allows us to reach more students with more nutritious food options.”

David Waidelich, chief collaboration and programs officer at Feed More, said the new partnership is an example of how Feed More has always sought collaboration.

“We’re able to carry out our mission and help even more neighbors in need because of our partnerships with nonprofits, for-profits, schools, places of faith, health care providers and other organizations,” Waidelich said. “These groups know the needs of the communities they serve and enable us to further extend our reach to get healthy food into the homes, and onto the tables, of more folks in their time of need.”

“Food insecurity, or the lack of reliable access to enough food to lead a healthy, active life, is a real problem for far too many college students,” Waidelich added. “We’ve all felt the impact of inflation, and our region’s college students have too. Thankfully, the VCU Ram Pantry provides students with easy access to the food they need, so they can focus on their classes and their future, instead of where, or how, they’re going to get their next meal. We look forward to continuing to grow and strengthen our relationship with VCU and exploring new ways we can help take care of their school community.”

The new partnership will allow financial contributions to the VCU Foundation’s Ram Pantry fund to pay for significantly more food, thereby helping significantly more VCU students. Money donated directly to this fund may be a more cost-effective way to help hungry students than conducting canned food drives, Jones said.

“This will provide long-term stability to Ram Pantry,” he said. “It creates a stable pipeline of food to go into both the main Ram Pantry and the Little Ram Pantry pilot project.” He further added, “This is a major win for VCU, and Lisa and I are very grateful to all of the administrators who helped us form this partnership.”

Supporting Ram Pantry has been a focus of both the VCU Foundation and the School of Business Foundation through a partnership with Virginia Credit Union that has focused on food insecurity and financial wellness, said Laura Kottkamp, Ed.D., executive director of the Monroe Park Foundations: VCU Foundation, College of Engineering Foundation and School of Business Foundation.

“The VCU Foundation has a focused Grants Committee to recognize amazing programs, such as Ram Pantry, around Monroe Park, and it is delighted to see such an incredible program receive awareness and resources to help our Rams,” Kottkamp said.

An ultimate goal for the partnership, Jones said, would be to generate enough financial support from donors that Ram Pantry could be self-sustaining through an endowment.

The study of food insecurity at VCU was conducted in 2020 and led by Youngmi Kim, Ph.D., an associate professor in the School of Social Work and a member of the Sustainable Food Access core of iCubed at VCU. It estimated that 35% of VCU student experience food insecurity. Jones said he believes the need has only grown among VCU students since the research was conducted.

Feed More also partners with VCU Health for the Food is Medicine program, which seeks to reduce hunger among patients screening positive for food insecurity during health care visits.