‘ASK FOR ARCHIE’: Food closet offers solutions for students in need

Jesse Rininger

Piles of cardboard boxes containing Ramen noodles, Kraft Mac & Cheese and canned soup line the walls of Archie’s food closet. The stone gray room, located in the furthest corner of the Recreation, Fitness and Wellness Center, is lit by fluorescent bulbs, giving it the appearance of a wartime bunker or a hospital basement.

Jeannie Kuebler, senior administrative assistant for the RFWC, maintains the food closet. She said it’s the most rewarding part of her job.

“Of all the things I do around here, this is my one special thing,” Kuebler said. “It’s just awesome.”

Archie’s Food Closet, established in November 1992 by former Health Services Director Sandra Lawrence, was originally located in the lower level of University Center West.

Kuebler said the closet was founded to assist needy students.

“[Lawrence] noticed a lot of kids getting sick,” Kuebler said. “And a lot of them were saying they weren’t eating.”

She said she knew of at least one time where a public safety officer found a girl crying in a parking lot. She said the girl hadn’t eaten for three days, but refused to use the food closet.

“I met a girl who told me ‘I wish I had known about this as a freshman, I lost so much weight,’” Kuebler said. “Students need to know it’s here for them, and they don’t need to be embarrassed.”

The process for attaining the food is kept anonymous. Students can simply go to the front desk at the RFWC, present their school ID and “ask for Archie,” or for Jeannie. The students are then escorted to the closet by staff workers – not student workers – and all information is kept confidential.

“The student workers at the front won’t know if you’re going in there to work out or something,” Kuebler said. “There’s a back door connected directly to the closet for even more privacy.”

She said the closet receives about 25 to 35 visitors each month, with peak periods during the beginning of the year and around certain holidays. She said many students are broke after paying for books and housing, so the closet aids them during that time.

“We like to stock turkeys and cans of cranberries during the holidays,” Kuebler said. “Some students don’t go home immediately, so we like to make those things available.”

Kuebler sat down breathless after she sorted through several new boxes of donated food. She said the number of donations is on the rise this year.

“We have never had this amount of food,” she said. “We’ve had to start pulling outdated items off the shelf.”

Many non-perishables stay good for up to five years after the expiration date, but Kuebler said she removes outdated items from the shelves and sells them to organizations like the Tri-State Food Bank.

Junior English Major Brent Calhoun is a financial aid student, and although he is on a strict budget, he said he does not use the food closet.

“I just feel like there are people out there who’d need it more than me,” Calhoun said. “Plus, it’s just hard to walk in and ask for something like that.”

Calhoun said he did not know about the food closet until earlier this year.

“I just heard about it through a friend,” he said. “That’s something I might have used as a freshman.”

The food closet used to be posted on several bulletin boards around campus, but because many of those boards have been taken down or re-purposed, Kuebler said she focuses advertising on EagleTV and on housing fliers.

“We’ve got to get the word out,” Kuebler said. “I always tell instructors, ‘If you see a problem with a student in concentration or something, and you think there might be more to it, then you should subtly let them know about what’s available to them.’”