On Sept. 1, the University of Florida officially opened the new Field and Fork Campus Food Program Pantry to support students, faculty and staff who need a little extra help finding healthy food for themselves and their families.
An open house to celebrate the pantry’s official opening was held on Sept. 1, kicked off by a brief ceremony featuring comments from UF President Kent Fuchs, Student Affairs Vice President Dave Kratzer, UF/IFAS Vice President Jack Payne, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Charlie Lane, Student Body President Joselin Padron-Rasines and others who have been instrumental in supporting the program.
“Nothing better embodies the spirit of optimism — of action — than the Field and Fork Food Pantry that we’re gathered to open this morning,” said President Fuchs in his opening remarks. He went on to laud those who were motivated enough by the need they had observed to ensure the project’s successful launch.
“With that shared desire, and with your remarkable spirit of optimism and action, I feel that there’s no limit to what we can create for our campus, our community, our country and — indeed actually — for the planet.”
In his remarks, Dr. Lane shared a similar sense of optimism, quoting Helen Keller as he had at the closing of the pantry’s groundbreaking ceremony last spring: “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming it.”
Dr. Lane emphasized the importance of the pantry to the entire UF community, noting that of the 140 people who had accessed the food pantry since its opening in August, half were UF employees.
Located at 564 Newell Drive, just south of Marston Science Library and behind the McCarty D and Food Science and Human Nutrition buildings, the pantry will provide anyone with a valid UF ID with access to free food. Regular hours of operation will be Tuesdays from 1 to 7 p.m., Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Tanja Philhower, assistant dean of students and co-chair of the Field and Fork Planning Committee, said the movement for the creation of the food pantry had been brewing for nearly two years and reached a critical point last summer.
“We just had multiple students within a short period of time that came in who all had this issue, and we decided it was really time to determine if there was the momentum there to revisit this issue,” Philhower explained. “So we pulled together a university-wide committee, recognizing that if it was going to be successful, it was going to need to be a university-wide partnership.”
The UF Dean of Students Office will oversee operations, guided by the spirit of the U Matter, We Care program philosophy: Every Gator Counts. The Division of Students Affairs, the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, and the Office of the Vice President and Chief Operating Officer provided the financial support to build the first phase of the pantry.
At the opening ceremony, Dr. Payne noted that, thanks to a generous donation from former Hitchcock Markets owners Alan and Kathy Hitchcock, the pantry could begin work on a second phase for an expanded facility. The pantry represents one part of UF’s larger Field and Fork Campus Food Program.
“The mission of the Field and Fork Campus Food Program is to connect our community with the resources and information they need to lead a healthy and sustainable lifestyle,” said Anna Prizzia, campus food systems coordinator for the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, who co-chairs the pantry’s planning committee with Philhower.
“We’re offering a workshop series that will cover everything from personal finance to cooking and nutrition,” Prizzia added, “and we’re in the process of building a large UF community farm here on campus, which will provide an opportunity for our students to learn about their food system as well as to provide services to their fellow community members at UF.”
Faculty, staff and students may register for these workshops via myTraining beginning Sept. 8.
“It’s a whole anti-hunger program,” said Dr. Payne. “It’s how we’ll make our impact last much longer than just one day.”
Field and Fork welcomes volunteers and donations of non-perishable food as well as funding to purchase food and supplies. Just a $1 donation can buy up to 10 cans of food for the pantry shelves. For more information on how to be a part of the Field and Fork Campus Food Program or to learn more about the services, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit fieldandfork.ufl.edu.