The University of Florida’s Field and Fork Food Pantry is facing a food shortage due to overwhelming demand after being open for more than 30 business days.
There have been 950 visits to the food pantry as of Oct. 23, said Michele Peterson, UF assistant director of student success.
There have been more visits than initially expected, said Tanja Philhower, the assistant dean and case manager for the UF Dean of Students Office.
Anna Prizzia, the UF campus food systems coordinator, said they were a bit overwhelmed with the demand for the pantry.
“Now, we’re just working to think about how we can best serve the needs of all of our students and make sure the shelves stay stocked,” Prizzia said.
Prizzia and Philhower were co-chairs of the initial pantry planning committee. Both said the number of visitors was initially hard to project.
“It can be difficult for people to admit the need for these services,” Philhower said. “We couldn’t quantify how many people who have this need will actually use this service.”
Success with these potential visitors could have gone in either direction, Philhower said.
About 10 percent of the student body experiences food insecurity at any given time, Prizzia said.
But even with the shortage, the program has not had to turn away any visitors.
The pantry is available to anyone with a UF ID. Items such as nonperishable foods, toiletries and sometimes fresh foods are available for free. There is no weight limit on what a user can take, she said. The pantry’s philosophy, Philhower said, is every person’s needs are different. Therefore, there is no limit on how many times people can visit or how much they can take.
The pantry relies mostly on donations for its food supply. About 11,707 pounds of food have been collected for the pantry’s inventory, Peterson said.
About 9,636 pounds of that is from donations. The remaining 2,071 pounds come from Bread of the Mighty Food Bank, a pantry partner and local nonprofit organization, Peterson said.
Bread of the Mighty Food Bank will likely face similar shortages, so Field and Fork will not be able to get as large of a supply from the food bank as before. This means the pantry will have to rely on food drives to meet its immediate needs, Philhower said.
Academic units, businesses, student organizations and classes hosted food drives before the pantry’s opening to stock the shelves and donate food, Philhower said.
To meet the pantry’s needs, some food drives are focusing on collecting specific items. Prizzia said the greatest need is for proteins like peanut butter, canned meats and beans.
UF student Lindsey Snow’s food drive with the UF Honors Program is just one drive working to meet this need.
College students shouldn’t have to worry about affording the food they eat, Snow said.
The program hosted a two-week food drive from Oct. 13 to 26 and focused on collecting the needed proteins, though all foods were accepted.
The Field and Fork Food Pantry enables students to not feel embarrassed about struggling to feed themselves and is as a long-awaited resource, she said.
Snow partnered with other programs and events in Hume Hall to encourage residents to donate.
“It’s sad to hear that they’re running low so soon, but I think that’s just another reason why more clubs and organizations and housing departments should get more involved in the food pantry,” Snow said.
“Because if anything, I don’t want it to not be available to the students that need it,” she said.