Hope Fills: The UCLA Food Closet
Published Apr 26, 2010 8:12 AM
The words are simple, the handwriting is hurried. "I have no money to my name," it reads. "I have no home. I am grateful to have the charity of others in the form of the Food Closet."
The letter writer's name is Frank and he is a UCLA student attempting to earn his degree while sleeping in his car, working 20-plus hours a week on campus to help his family (who are unemployed), and cutting down on even basic necessities like food. This is where UCLA's Food Closet, located in the Student Activities Center, has made all the difference — not just for Frank, but for many struggling scholars in Westwood.
A year ago, UCLA student Abdallah Jadallah noted the heavy effect of the economic downturn on his fellow Bruins, many of whom were having a difficult time affording basic necessities like food, and they had nowhere to turn to for assistance. No stranger to activism — Jadallah is the President of the Muslim Student's Association and oversees numerous volunteer projects — he collaborated with Antonio Sandoval, the director of UCLA's Community Programming Office, to find a way to aid disadvantaged students.
Jadallah found an empty storage closet inside UCLA's Student Activities Center, Sandoval acquired a slightly used refrigerator and began to spread the word across campus, calling for donations. Soon, aid began to pour in from all over campus, says Sandoval, and everyone in the Bruin campus community — from the registrar's office to students in Greek organizations to parents at UCLA's Lab school — have kept the Closet stocked. Everything helps, especially for a student working 40-plus hours a week to pay for tuition or living out of their car because they cannot afford housing.
"Holiday periods are tough, though," Sandoval says. "And sometimes in the middle of the quarter, people forget."
For struggling students looking for a helping hand, the Closet is not marked, and students can anonymously enter and take what they need. A memory book inside the closet allows students to privately thank the Food Closet for the assistance, and profound thanks and gratitude fill the pages. That's where Frank placed his poignant note.
And although Jadallah is excited that the Closet has impacted students' lives so positively, he does wish that this kind of resource wasn't even necessary in the first place. "The best thing ever would be to not have this closet exist," he admits. "If there's no need for it, I wouldn't be disappointed."
But until that day comes, students like Frank are grateful for the Food Closet's helping hand. As he wrote, "Thank you for restoring my faith in humanity and for making it possible to continue working towards my dream of becoming my families' first college graduate."