Police and students tackle food insecurity at VCU

Annual food drive collects 1,350 pounds of groceries to stock local food banks.

Three people in business attire move bins of food into a closet or pantry area.
From left, VCU Police recruits Antonio Roane, Jacob Klingman and Ashanti Owens deliver food drive donations into RamPantry's distribution room. The student food bank is located in the university Student Commons. (Kevin Morley, University Marketing)

To help streamline the delivery of hundreds of pounds of food into VCU’s RamPantry last week, Virginia Commonwealth University Police recruits formed an assembly line to pass non-perishable items from an overstuffed van into the university Student Commons.

Hundreds of goods, including peanut butter, canned vegetables, oatmeal and the college staple — ramen noodles — were part of the haul.

For the police department’s busy recruits, it was a timeout from instruction to participate in community service. On a humid Friday, and wearing suits and professional attire for an event later in the day, the 44th basic law enforcement academy class helped deliver approximately 300 pounds of groceries to the university’s food pantry as part of VCUPD’s fourth annual Hall to House Food Drive.

“This was the recruits’ first experience with community outreach at VCU,” said VCU Police Chief John Venuti. “They got the chance to see how many resources we can collect here at VCU and that their delivery helps students in need.”

As students completed their final exams and prepared to move out of their residence halls, crime prevention officers placed plastic collection bins in a dozen halls for the food drive. The goal is to collect non-perishable items from outgoing students who would otherwise throw it away as they leave campus, and transport the items to local food banks.

“Officers, staff and recruits really came together for this outreach to help students overcome food insecurity during the summer,” said VCU Police Lt. Nicole Dailey. “People sometimes make it to college and then can’t stay because they have full-time jobs to cover housing and food. After outgoing students stuffed the bins for two weeks, we came together as a team for multiple days to sort through donations and remove expired or opened food.”

A line of people in business attire hand down packages and bins of food, starting at a van.
VCU Police recruits deliver donated food to RamPantry. Outgoing residential students left unused food in VCUPD collection bins as part of the annual Hall to House Food Drive. (Kevin Morley, University Marketing)

Outgoing students could have trashed what they didn’t eat this semester, but their donations during the food drive, totaling over 1,300 pounds, are now helping those pursuing summer courses as well as city residents. In addition to RamPantry — VCU’s student-run emergency food bank — VCU Police also delivered a portion of donations to Feed More, a central Virginia hunger-relief organization.

Gavin Roark, VCU’s director of residential life and housing, said since 2014 on-campus students have donated more than 70,000 pounds of items to help others. That total includes food, clothing, furniture and other household goods left for others before they move out of residence halls.

“During the past four years, we’ve had a strong partnership with VCU Police for food donations going to RamPantry,” Roark said. “We know the end of the academic year can be stressful for many students as they are engaged in final exams and class projects. This is just one example of our students helping one another and sustaining an ongoing resource for VCU students in need.”

For the VCU Police recruits and officers, the food drive, student involvement, partnerships across campus and teamwork have been an example of the university community looking out for each other.

“When we started this drive four years ago, we weren’t sure how much participation there would be,” Dailey said. “These students have a lot going on, but they are mindful of helping each other and how their abundance can help another classmate. For police, it shows our recruits how to be involved and truly reflects our team approach to outreach and engagement.”