Source: Bruna Lab
Source: Bruna Lab

Tine-y they are not— UF’s new food pantry, the Field and Fork, stepped up to the plate to battle student hunger with the opening of its first on-campus location in the fall of 2015.

Located just south of Marston Library, the pantry is stocked with non-perishable food items, toiletries, and occasional fresh produce from the UF Community Garden. In contrast to other more common forms of student aid, no income verification is needed to receive assistance from the Field and Fork.

“Sometimes, need doesn’t always show up on paper, whether it be because of more recent family hardship that didn’t show up on FAFSA, or because of other causes we can’t see or measure,” said Tanja Philhower, assistant dean of students and co-chair of the Field and Fork planning committee.

The plan had been cooking for over a year before it finally saw tangible progress. Though it had been attempted before (and engineering Dean of Student Affairs Angela Lindner actually began a food pantry specifically for engineering students in need), a campus-wide food pantry had never come to realization.

“A great committee of enthusiastic people came together from across several departments. The energy surrounding it was different from other years when it was attempted,” said Philhower.

The Dean of Students Office completed a needs assessment study that confirmed suspected need. According to the study, 10 percent of students at UF experienced a time when they were not financially able to regularly get enough to eat, and about half of these students experienced difficulty in their academic life (regarding their grades or their ability to study) because of it.

“Lack of access to food shouldn’t be a barrier to achieving goals and sharing skills with the world,” said Philhower. “Only a valid UF ID is required to receive food at the pantry.”

The Field and Fork pantry partnered with local food banks for some of their canned foods, but the majority of their resources come from their own food drives, made successful through the efforts of the campus community.

“People and organizations across campus ran food drives, and continue to partner with us,” said Anna Prizzia, campus food systems coordinator for the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, and co-chair of the pantry’s planning committee with Philhower. “Donations of money have also been very helpful—we can make a little money go a long way!”

Beyond providing desperately needed food, the Field and Fork also provides health advice on balanced lifestyles and classes about finance management, as well as meal preparation workshops.

        “We hope to be able to feed people, expand services already being done for students, and help them reach their goals,” said Philhower. “Eventually, we hope to incorporate even more fresh fruits and vegetables from the UF Community Farm into the foods available to help promote even more balanced and healthy lifestyles.”

The UF Community Farm has two locations, one by the bat houses on campus where students and faculty can grow fresh produce for themselves, and the other on the IFRS research drive. This larger location exists as a teaching farm, and is organized on a much larger scale, allowing for more efficient production of crops such as corn, potatoes, and sweet potatoes.

“The community farm provides vital hands-on experience, in addition to the fresh produce harvested,” said Prizzia. “Our industry demands a higher level of skills because of growing competition. The farm helps prepare students for their jobs beyond college.”

From their fields to hungry students’ forks, UF’s new food pantry has come to serve both the most basic and the long-term needs of students and faculty members on campus.