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Lift Up Vikes! Lifts Spirits and Lives

Cleveland State University is committed to student success. But what if students who are hungry to learn are also just plain hungry?

Class attendance drops off … grades suffer … the dream of earning a college degree is dashed by the harsh reality of life and the need to survive.

CSU’s Lift Up Vikes!, a resource center and food pantry, provides food and other assistance for hungry and homeless students in a convenient, dignified and compassionate manner.

“Lift Up Vikes! plays a critical role in the life of many low-income students by providing a solution to food insecurity and addressing non-academic needs that lead to poor academic performance,” says Boyd Yarbrough, vice president for student affairs.

“Lift Up Vikes! helps students stay in school and graduate by changing the trajectory of their lives, helping to lift them out of generational poverty, and perhaps most importantly, helping them maintain their pride and dignity.”

Started in February 2016 as an expansion of the CSU Women’s Center food pantry, the program meets a real and growing need – during its first year, more than 400 students were assisted during 1,737 visits, including 82 minor children of student-parents. On average, 15 students are fed per day.

While maintaining confidentiality, Lift Up Vikes! provides those in need with fresh produce, meat and dairy, nonperishable food, personal care and household items, laundry facilities, a kitchen, lockers, and workshops on financial planning and other topics.

Lift Up Vikes! has distributed over 35,000 pounds of food to students in need. Food is purchased at a deep discount from the Greater Cleveland Food Bank and delivered weekly. In addition, Orlando Bakery donates 60 loaves of bread or bags of rolls weekly and food is donated by the campus community.

To support Lift Up Vikes!, Click here or call 216-687-5105 to discuss food donations. Please note: Clothing donations are not accepted.

Nonperishable food items are assigned a point value. Students may visit the pantry once a week and select up to 15 points of nonperishables and eight pounds of perishable food.

Lift Up Vikes! also connects students with Dress for Success and Suited for Men for clothing assistance, as well as with community resources for utility and housing assistance.

The program does not give money to students; 100 percent of support for Lift Up Vikes! comes from private donations.

The College and University Food Bank Alliance identifies food insecurity as a growing reality on campuses.

Students experience food insecurity when they eat less to make food supplies last or skip meals due to lack of food. Food-insecure students frequently must choose between food or textbooks, rent or medicine.

It is conservatively estimated that more than 40 percent of CSU’s 17,000-plus students are in need of assistance.

Jillian Keller, program director, says she is inspired daily by students visiting the pantry.

“If someone can study and attend classes while wondering when they will eat again or where they will sleep, imagine what they will accomplish when these basic needs are met,” she says. “They will be rock stars.”


“Lift Up Vikes! has helped me tremendously by giving me the brain food needed to get through college and feed my family.”

Part-time student, Class of 2020

“I was having a rough week and didn’t have anything to eat at home. Lift Up Vikes! could not have come at a better time.”

Full-time pre-med student. Class of 2020

“I am grateful for food I am able to procure weekly to help feed myself and my family. It lowers my stress levels and saves me time that I can put towards studying.”

Full-time student.
Military Veteran. Class of 2019


For a minimum contribution of $5, employees were allowed to wear jeans to work every Friday for a month. The result —

$2,163 was donated to Lift Up Vikes! Thank you.

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