Donated Van Opens New Opportunities for Knights Pantry

Food offerings stretch farther and in greater variety

Posted Wednesday, May 1, 2024 @ 7:50 AM

Student Research Week


Weekly food offerings stretch farther and in greater variety at Knights Helping Knights Pantry thanks to a new van donated by community partners.  

Deeper storage space means each trip from campus to food donors like Aldi and Sprouts returns with up to 900 pounds of food instead of 400. The addition of refrigerated transportation for the first time not only opens more perishable food options to students, but expands the list of potential food donors previously barred for food safety reasons.  

With the help of the UCF Foundation, the van’s donation from the Moscrip Family Foundation and Light Orlando comes at a critical juncture for the pantry as demand continues to climb.  

“Times change and so must we,” explains Jeannie Kiriwas, associate director of the Student Union.  

About 23% of undergraduates and 12% of graduate students experience food insecurity, according to a 2019-20 federal study, or about double the national average. The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as “limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods…”  

At UCF, the student-run pantry has seen a spike in daily service over the past year from about 250 students a day to closer to 350 and even 450 students occasionally. Students like Procurement Specialist Alyssa Harris answered that demand with weekly trips into Orlando to stuff an old minivan as full as possible with food from partners like Second Harvest Food Bank. But sometimes donation had to be left behind or wait for a return trip.  

As a result, supplies would begin to run thin by end of the week.  

“This helps meets our demand,” Harris says.  

The addition of pre-packaged meals and other cold and frozen foods not only stretches supplies into the weekend but opens more variety, says Assistant Manager Chloe Milliron, a junior. Adequately answering rising demand encourages Milliron. She took on the role in part because her own mother growing up relied on food banks and soup kitchens to get by.   

“This is close to my heart,” she says.

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