Education, Latest News

WVU campus food pantry adds new location, combats student food insecurity

West Virginia University’s student food pantry, The Rack, has sought to provide accessible resources to students facing food insecurity since 2010. Last month marked the opening of its third location on campus, expanding its reach and support to a greater range of students.

A 2021 study published in the Journal of Appalachian Studies shed light on the prevalence of food insecurity among students at an Appalachian university. The study revealed that first-generation students and those from low-income backgrounds were disproportionately affected, with nearly half of all students surveyed reporting struggles to maintain consistent and healthy meals. This impacts academic performance as well as mental and physical health. Campus food pantries, an increasingly common service across colleges nationwide, represent one approach to this issue.

On Monday, the state Senate passed the Hunger-Free Campus Act. This bill, which now goes to the House of Delegates for consideration, aims to provide grants to colleges and universities to combat food insecurity among students in multiple ways, including the establishment and enhancement of campus food pantries. Students from WVU and Marshall University shared their experiences with food insecurity, while several lawmakers acknowledged their previous unawareness of the extent of hunger among students in the state.

The Rack was originally founded to address these unmet needs, striving to combat hunger among WVU students while promoting good health and academic success. According to Sydni Vega, Student Engagement and Leadership program assistant and overseer of The Rack, concerns about food insecurity on college campuses have intensified in recent years due to rising tuition rates and declining admission rates nationally.

“Although it is joked that the college student diet is ramen, decreases in admission around the globe are showing just how much of a struggle it is to truly afford college and live on this college diet just to get a degree,” said Vega. “This also shows the effects that malnutrition has on students’ ability to concentrate and get passing marks in their classes. Without a balanced diet, the brain does not function at its full potential, leaving students too fatigued and hungry to adequately learn in their courses leading to increased dropout rates.”

The Rack operates three locations offering various services. The main pantry, located at the Morgan House, 660 N. High Street, provides non-perishable and refrigerated items, as well as fresh produce every Monday and surplus sandwiches and bakery items through a partnership with a local Starbucks. The Snack Rack at the Campus Recreation Center offers quick snacks and wellness items. The new Snack Rack at Statler similarly offers shelf-stable items and hygiene products.

With the Jan. 29 opening of The Rack’s third location at the WVU Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, it can now serve a larger number of students, particularly those unable to reach the main pantry. The Rack also seeks to continue raising awareness about its services and volunteer opportunities while promoting financial literacy and the importance of sustainable, nutritious diets. By spreading public awareness of hunger on college campuses and offering a range of resources to students, the campus pantry aims to provide both temporary and long-term tools to overcome these struggles and thrive.

“Not everyone is taught how to make ends meet when money is sparse, so we want to send our students into the future knowing that they can make ends meet and don’t have to struggle when times get hard,” said Vega. “These are life skills that everyone needs, and we want our students to be successful in every way possible without the burden of basic necessities standing in their way.”

Throughout the 2022-23 school year, The Rack served over 1,000 students, while more than 900 students have already used its services for the 2023-24 academic year. Additionally, the recently opened Snack Rack at Statler has recorded over 100 visits since its opening last month. Access to the pantry is open to all WVU students, and The Rack’s intake form is used solely to gather data and make improvements to better serve students. By eradicating common barriers like income requirements, The Rack can assist those facing long-term food insecurity, temporary financial emergencies or seeking to save money.

“I believe that having financial requirements is very limiting to those who may be in an emergency situation rather than having a long-term problem. … Not only this, but students may be raising families or taking care of someone that requires a majority of their finances to go towards their care,” said Vega. “There are many reasons why I believe having an income barrier is detrimental to those who need assistance. Their documents say one thing, but their day-to-day lives and struggles say another.”

The Rack relies entirely on grants and contributions from the community for its funding, though securing grants can be challenging due to its exclusive focus on serving students. As a Mountaineer Food Bank partner, The Rack can purchase a limited variety of food through the agency, making food donations from the community a top priority for the program. 

Donations of unopened, unexpired and non-perishable food items are welcome at The Rack locations during operating hours or can be purchased through the pantry’s Amazon wish list. Monetary donations can be made online, and volunteer opportunities are available for those interested in supporting The Rack’s mission. The program will be encouraging donations during WVU’s upcoming Annual Day of Giving on March 20.

For more information, visit or follow The Rack on social media platforms for updates and ways to get involved.

TWEET @DominionPostWV