Like sleep and exercise, food plays a critical role in student well-being and academic success. Whether it’s a healthy breakfast before an important exam or a hearty dinner at the end of a long week, there’s no discounting the significance of a balanced meal.
Helping to support the University of Florida community’s access to nutritional foods is the main mission of the Hitchcock Field & Fork Pantry.
The pantry, which was established in 2015, is part of the Field & Fork Campus Food Program — a project led by the Division of Student Life and UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences that also includes the Field & Fork Farm and Gardens. The initiative serves to build a more food-secure campus community.
Food security measures the ability of an individual to access sufficient nourishing food for an active, healthy life. When someone cannot meet these dietary needs, either in amount or nutritional quality, they are considered food insecure. The pantry aims to provide safe, nutritious foods for anyone facing food insecurity.
Because of all its important work in the UF community, the Hitchcock Field & Fork Pantry was selected as the Winn-Dixie Bloomin’ 4 Good Program recipient for the month of February. As part of a new initiative, store leadership selects a local nonprofit each month to benefit from the program. This month, every time someone purchases a $12.99 Bloomin’ 4 Good bouquet, which will be marked with a red sticker, from the 300 SW 16th Ave. Winn Dixie location, $1 will go to the pantry.
All funds collected through the program will go straight toward stocking the pantry’s shelves, said Roselind Brown, assistant director for care. Brown works in the Care Area of the Dean of Students Office, overseeing both the Collegiate Veterans Success Center and the pantry.
“We really just want to get the word out and encourage folks to purchase a bouquet,” she said. “Especially since it’s Valentine’s Day, pick up a bouquet for your loved one, your family member, your partner — or yourself.”
The pantry, located on campus at 564 Newell Drive, is open to anyone with a Gator 1 card — UF students, staff and faculty included. There, individuals can find a variety of meats, breads, grains, non-perishables, easy-prep meals and hygiene products. A 2019 expansion increased the physical location to just over $1,700 square feet, giving the pantry a more grocery-store-like feel.
While fresh produce is sourced from the Field & Fork Farm and Gardens, the pantry is largely donor based, accepting food drive contributions and monetary donations from individuals and local businesses. Funds earned through Winn Dixie’s Bloomin’ 4 Good program this month will help the pantry purchase items requested by students.
Brown said her favorite part about working with the pantry is that she never knows what each day will bring.
“I love that the pantry has always had partners from all over campus and all over the community,” she said. “We’re just continuing to build that out.”
Brown also said she’s passionate about working to promote food security on college campuses, like UF.
A steady food supply, she said, is foundational to an individual’s success. In psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, food — along with sleep, air and shelter — meet the most basic set of needs: physiological needs. Consistent, nutritional food access gives people the energy required to be engaged throughout the day, which can have a positive impact on academic achievement.
Food also serves a profound cultural purpose, giving individuals the opportunity to gather socially and establish a sense of belonging.
“It’s more than just food and nourishment for your body,” Brown said. “It can create a space for sharing a community, as well.”
Learn more about the Hitchcock Field & Fork pantry.
Writer: Veronica Nocera, firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: Roselind Brown, email@example.com