WASHINGTON, D.C. – George Washington University students are so broke they can’t afford food, so school officials launched a food pantry to help them get by.

“You cannot imagine how much RELIEF this gift has brought me on so many levels,” one student wrote in an anonymous note left at GW’s new pantry, known as “The Store.” “Yes we go to GW. Yes we sometimes can’t afford food. Thank you for hearing our voice and caring. I love you too.”gwfoodpantry

GW Associate Dean of Students Tim Miller worked with GW Class Council to start The Store, which is run by volunteers who purchase food from the Capital Area Food Bank with donated funds, NBC Washington reports.

The Store is stocked with fresh produce as well as canned and boxed foods that students are free to take anonymously by swiping their student cards. The Store uses student email address to send updates when new food is in stock, and a Google form for students to leave feedback and suggestions, according to the news site.

Miller said The Store is intentionally tucked into a quiet hallway to allow students to get in and out with discretion.

“This can be an embarrassing thing for people sometimes,” he said. “For us, this is all about being of service to those students …. And if that’s what they need to feel good about this, then we’re going to provide them that. I don’t need to know who they are.”

The food is provided to anyone who claims they need it.

“We have faith if you say you need this, then you need it,” Miller said.

Miller told NPR students give a lot to the community, so the community is helping the students.

“The population at GW does a lot in the city,” Miller said. “They intern a great deal. So we have a plan that allows students to meet that need.”

Many of the 160 students who have used The Store since it opened Oct. 1 have left notes behind to express their gratitude.

“I just wanted to say thank you. I walked in and I felt terrified,” one note read. “I cried at how many options there are, and how much people must care to do this. Bless you all.”

Clare Cady, director and co-founder of College and University Food Bank Alliance, said the GW food bank is part of a larger trend of college students who increasingly cannot afford food, despite holding jobs and taking financial aid for college costs.

At GW, annual tuition and fees comes to $51,950, while room and board costs an estimated $12,500 a year, according to U.S. News & World Report.

“Financial aid has not grown in proportion to the cost of attendance of school,” Cady said. “So, students are receiving aid and they’re working, and yet they’re still not being able to make ends meet.”

NBC Washington reports:

Other universities in the D.C. area also have created food pantries for students. 

George Mason University and University of Maryland, College Park also have food pantries in place. The University of Maryland pantry served 176 students and staff members last fall, the school’s director of dining services said. 

George Mason University’s pantry is part of the College and University Food Bank Alliance (CUFBA), a national organization that helps colleges cope with poverty and hunger. 

CUFBA just published the results of a survey they conducted of more than 3,700 college students in 12 states. More than 1 in 5 respondents reported “very low levels of food security that qualify them as hungry.” The majority of students struggling to buy food had jobs and were receiving financial aid, the study found. 

“If a student is that hungry, they can’t study, they can’t take a test, they can’t be in class and concentrate, and participation is a part of their grade,” Cady told NBC Washington.