May 23, 2024

UT combats food insecurity on campus with Big Orange Pantry

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville opens Big Orange Pantry as a new initiative in the battle against campus food insecurity.

Smokey's Pantry recieves their first shipment outside Greve hall. Courtesy of @HeyDrShea twitter.

The University of Tennessee added a new addition to its campus as it strives to combat food insecurity.

The UT Dean of Students Office created Big Orange Pantry in an effort to assist the UT community. The pantry began serving during the fall 2020 semester and is located in Greve Hall.

COVID-19 increases the need for food banks and pantries

Many students face food insecurity every year. They have had access to resources such as Smokey’s Pantry. However, COVID-19 has dramatically increased the need for food as many are out of work or unable to provide for themselves.

Food banks and pantries across the nation have seen increases in the number of families using their services due to pandemic shutdowns, challenges and more. From March to June alone, food banks distributed more than 1.9 billion meals across the country. In March, the need for food banks increased by 20% nationwide. Feeding America estimates the pandemic will ultimately end with one in six Americans struggling with hunger.

Abigail Brumford is the interim Assistant Director of Outreach and Initiatives for the Dean of Students Office. Brumfield stated the importance of Big Orange Pantry in this time of crisis.

“COVID has put a lot of pressure on people from people losing part-time jobs to family members losing jobs,” Brumfield said. “People have all different types of journeys, you never know what people are going through.”

The Hope Center conducted a study among two and four-year universities across the nation. They found that 38% of students at four-year universities face food insecurity. They also found that three in five students face basic needs insecurity.

Food insecurity among college students isn’t a simple growling stomach. It is a much larger problem that can lead to academic decline as well as physical and mental health damage. UT recognized the need to combat these dangers with Big Orange Pantry.

How to Access Big Orange Pantry

Students, faculty and staff will have to submit a first time registration form if it is their first time using the pantry.

After you are registered, students, faculty and staff can access the order form to request food from the pantry. Requests will then be ordered and the staff of Big Orange Pantry will contact you with a pick-up time.

The Big Orange Pantry is available to all students, faculty and staff and is open Wednesday and Friday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Users are able to visit the pantry once per week.

“We want the pantry to be a place where people don’t feel stigma but feel like it’s a shopping experience instead,” said Abigail Brumfield. “The pantry is built on client choice, and I’m excited because we have content experts from across campus working together.”

Volunteering for the pantry is also available on the Jones Center for Leadership and Service sign up to serve calendar. 

Vols Help Vols

Big Orange Pantry isn’t the only measure UT has taken to combat campus food insecurity. They have also created a short term program called Big Orange Meal Share. Students can fill out a form to request meals.

Other students can also donate meals or make a monetary donation to fellows Vols in need. Students can request up to twenty meals.

Also helping the iniative is Smokey’s Pantry, which has been feeding the UT community since 2016. Smokey’s Pantry is run by campus ministries, the Tyson House and Student Government. It is an independent of the larger FISH pantries.

Dr. Shea Kidd Houze is the Associate Vice Chancellor and Dean of Students. Houzer tweeted her excitement for Big Orange Pantry.



Edited by Ryan Sylvia and Donna Mitchell

Featured photo courtesy of @HeyDrShea Twitter. 

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