While waiting for an academic scholarship to disburse during August 2018, University of Florida sociology major Sofie Muench needed to find a solution to address her temporary lack of sufficient funds for basic needs. In order to pay for housing and utilities, she limited her meals to one or two a day, which began to affect her academic performance.
Muench remembered the Alan and Cathy Hitchcock Field & Fork Pantry on campus, and realized this was a time to utilize that resource.
“[The Hitchcock Pantry] truly made a difference for my whole situation, which lasted a month,” said Muench, now a senior at UF and a student manager at the Hitchcock Pantry. “I didn’t have to worry where my next meal came from. It gave me peace of mind. As humans, we cannot predict when hardships come. When we do experience them, it’s helpful to have a resource like the Hitchcock Pantry. It’s such a welcoming environment that truly releases the anxiety that someone experiencing food insecurity has.”
On Nov. 18, the Hitchcock Pantry hosted an open house and resource fair for UF students, faculty and staff to visit the newly renovated and expanded pantry space. The 1,194-square-foot expansion cost $785,000 with $150,000 of that as a gift from Alan and Cathy Hitchcock. This expansion provides even more space to display non-perishable food items and fresh produce from the Field & Fork Farm and Gardens, a dedicated area for storage and processing of donations, and a teaching and demonstration area.
“With the Hitchcock Field & Fork Pantry, we’ve always sought to create a physical space that supports students and helps eliminate the stigma around food insecurity,” said Heather White, Associate Vice President for UF Student Affairs and Dean of Students. “The expansion will not only allow us to assist more members of our community but it is the hope of many that it will serve as an educational catalyst for care and support at UF.”
Since 2015, the Hitchcock Pantry has assisted members of the UF community who experience food insecurity, which is the limited or uncertain access to nutritious food. The Hitchcock Pantry is a collaboration between the UF Division of Student Affairs and the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS), part of the university’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS).
The Hitchcock Pantry is part of the larger Field & Fork Campus Food Program, which provides opportunities for collaboration and learning in sustainable agriculture and food systems. Through the Field & Fork Farm and Gardens, a small urban farm on campus, the Hitchcock Pantry receives fresh seasonal produce grown by students.
Since its opening, the Hitchcock Pantry has conducted more than 39,000 transactions. More than 5,000 pounds of produce from the Field & Fork Farm and Gardens are donated to the Hitchcock Pantry each year. Anyone with a valid UF ID is welcome to utilize the campus resource and take enough supplies to last them about a week.
Muench said after her experience utilizing the Hitchcock Pantry, she donates extra canned goods and school supplies to the pantry when possible. Donations of food and toiletries from partners, friends, employees and students, like Muench, help the Hitchcock Pantry to thrive. The expansion of the resource was made possible by a leadership gift from Alan and Cathy Hitchcock, founders of Hitchcock’s Markets, and this gift was used to secure additional funding.
“Through this expansion, we’ll be able to cater a lot more to the growing population at UF,” Muench said. “It’s a great opportunity that further serves a community at UF that is in need.”
For more information about the Hitchcock Pantry expansion or to learn how to get involved, visit https://pantry.fieldandfork.ufl.edu/open-house/.